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Planning approves smaller version of Hauck's neon blade sign
Plannig Haucks sign
The Planning Commission voted to approve a modified sign program that reduces the size of the neon blade sign from protruding 7 feet into the public right-of-way to 4 feet, 11 inches. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Turlock Planning Commission approved Hauck's Grill hanging the first neon sign the downtown area has seen in quite some time, but when it comes to the size of the proposed wall-mounted blade sign the Commission decided smaller was better.

Brownstone Equities, which owns the building that houses Hauck's, requested a sign program that would allow the installation of a back-lit, laser-cut metal wall sign approximately 5 feet by 3 feet in size to be located next to the front entrance and an exposed neon cabinet display blade sign that would be approximately 7 feet wide, 31 inches tall and 12 inches deep and be mounted on the building's outside corner 15 feet from the sidewalk.

While the total sign area requested by Hauck's falls within the allowable sign area for the property, the proposed blade sign deviates from the standards established in the Turlock Municipal Code and the Downtown Design Guidelines.

On Thursday, the Planning Commission voted 5-1, with Commission Chair Victor Pedroza opposing and Commissioner Eric Gonsalves abstaining due to a conflict of interest, to approve a modified sign program that reduces the size of the neon blade sign to 60 percent of the applicant's proposal. This reduces the dimensions of the sign from 30.5 inches by 84 inches  to roughly 18 inches by 50 inches, for a total sign area of about 6 square feet.

The wall bracket would add approximately six to nine inches to the projection of the sign over the public right-of-way. The resulting projection would not exceed 4 feet, 11 inches,  less than the Turlock Municipal Code limit of 6.5 feet. The approved sign area for the neon sign would be approximately six square feet which is still in excess of the area allowed in the City Code (2 feet by 2 feet), but more in line with the size of the projecting signs permitted in the area.

Scott Elia, who designed the sign for Hauck's, said they were requesting the regulation modifications in a desire to create a sign similar to the blade sign that was constructed on the building for the original Hauck's Pharmacy to reflect the historic aspect of the building. Brownstone Equities provided a historic photo of the building that shows a number of neon signs, along with two blade signs, one Elia identified as Hauck's and one that reads "Turlock Hotel."

Elia said when designing the sign, he and the owners of Hauck's were aiming to "preserve and connect with the history of downtown Turlock."

To Commissioner Soraya Fregosi that historic photo was an example of the "horrible visual clutter we have eliminated in the downtown."

"I value the historic nature of our downtown and the people who invested in making it what it is today," said Fregosi. "What you're proposing is too much bling for how simple your building is."

Four members of the public also spoke out against the proposed neon blade sign.

Local resident Milt Trieweiler said he is a member of the historical society and through some research found that the Hauck's building was constructed in 1914 and neon wasn't brought to the United States until 1923.

"When the building was built, neon signs weren't even in existence...It's not necessary. It's not historic. And it's an eyesore," he said.

Turlocker Michael Puffer voiced concerns over granting Hauck's exemptions to the sign ordinance. He also opposed the Planning Commission's decision to grant Dust Bowl Brewing Company a exemption to install a rooftop-mounted sign approximately 4 feet, 8 inches by 77 feet and comprised of individual neon letters for a total sign area of approximately 360 square feet on their new facility on Dianne Drive and Fulkerth Road.

"If we constantly give these businesses exemptions, what's the point of (a sign ordinance)?" said Puffer on Thursday.

While the Planning Commission voted to approve the modified sign program, with a smaller neon blade sign, Hauck's Grill can still appeal the decision to the Turlock City Council.