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Main Street freeway sign sparks Planning debate
Planning pic
The Turlock Planning Commission heard a proposal on Thursday to add an 85-foot tall, 38-foot wide multi-tenant freeway sign on Main Street at Hwy. 99 The sign is designed for up to nine panels on each side, totaling 1,319 square feet per side. - photo by Image Contributed

Main Street businesses are hoping to attract more traffic — and customers — off Hwy. 99 with a new multi-tenant freeway sign, but Turlock Planning commissioners are wary of putting up such a large structure.

The proposed project would see the removal of the existing freeway-oriented pole sign and replace it with an 85-foot tall, 38-foot wide multi-tenant freeway sign. The sign is designed for up to nine panels on each side, totaling 1,319 square feet per side.

“At this location there is a real opportunity to have a visible sign for others to read at a distance and give commercial opportunities to Turlock. Compare Monte Vista Crossing to the other signs and you have iconic symbols like Target and Home Depot,” said Reed Onate, the applicant for building the sign. “Below them are smaller signs, which are harder to read.

“What we are trying to achieve is to draw people off the freeway. If you look between Stockton and here, the signs are a lot bigger but they don’t have the quality or design that we are suggesting. This calls attention to your Main Street.”

Onate opted for nine panels to incorporate more businesses in the sign, despite only obtaining a commitment from two: “Days Inn” and “Comfort Inn.”

But the proposal does not match city standards in terms of location, height, size, and design.

City staff recommended that the Planning Commission allow the sign to be built, but at a smaller scale — approximately 800 to 1,100 square feet of overall sign area for the freeway sign, and reduce the panels to allow only six tenants. Though the height would still exceeds restrictions for the commercial zoning area, it would be comparable to other freeway signs in Turlock.

“I think we should stay with six tenants,” Planning Commissioner Elvis Dias said. “It would make sense to also have 1,224 square feet per side, which is between the staff’s proposal of 1,000 square feet and 1,440 square feet. It is in the middle in terms of size of what is already on Highway 99. The variants wouldn’t be as noticeable down the road.”

During the meeting, Turlock resident Carl Camp voiced his objections to putting the freeway sign up without a sound wall to deflect the noise of traffic. Deputy Director of Development Services Debra Whitmore responded that the city did not possess the funding at this time to erect a sound wall.

The Turlock Planning Commission agreed on Thursday to postpone a final decision on the multi-tenant freeway sign until their next meeting on April 4, at which time city staff were directed to also present alternative designs: one roughly incorporating 1,200 square feet per side, and the other at 1,000 square feet.

Onate also requested permission to remove the “Days Inn” sign off West Main Street, located in the parking lot of the Waffle Shop,  with plans to reface or replace the 8 foot by 8 foot cabinet sign. Days Inn and the city have been unable to reach the owners of the Waffle Shop, which has been out of business for over a year.

Onate was told during Thursday's meeting that, removal of the sign cannot be done without written permission from the property owner of the Waffle Shop. If the owner does not contact the city, the only option would be to reface the sign.