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Planning passes on electronic message boards
The Turlock Planning Commission decided to table discussion on an electronic message board ordinance. - photo by Journal file photo

The Turlock Planning Commission decided to table discussion on creating an electronic message board ordinance due to the myriad of issues a possible ordinance would have to address.

"It's a slippery slope. I don't think we're ready as a city to take this on," said Planning Chair Nick Hackler.

Before creating an electronic message board ordinance, the Planning Commission would have to decide where the signs could be located in town, whether to allow on-site only advertising or a mix of on-site and off-site advertising, sign construction parameters, sign area allowance and lighting standards.

One of the main concerns of Planning Commissioners — message content —  is something that legally cannot be controlled by the City. In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, the U.S. Supreme Court found that a sign code cannot include content-based regulations.

Another issue with electronic message boards is enforcing lighting standards and message frequency regulations, according to Deputy Director of Development Services and Planning Debra Whitmore.

"We would need to bring in lighting experts to measure illumination," said Whitmore.

Members of the public voiced their opposition to the City allowing more electronic message signs in Turlock.

Local Realtor Scott Snyder said he was shocked in 2004 when the City Council approved the 85-feet tall electronic billboard that sits just east of the Turlock Auto Plaza and facing Highway 99.

"More billboards or video signs would come with a cost," said Snyder.

Turlock resident Milt Trieweiler said he was happy when the Turlock Auto Plaza sign broke down a few years ago.

"You're opening up a Pandora box is you allow these signs. We're Turlock; we're a unique community," he said.

Peggy Hoyle suggested the Planning Commission drive around Modesto and Stockton and observe for themselves the electronic signs each of those cities permit.

"I've seen drivers distracted at five-corners in Modesto because they're trying to read the end of a message...It's a safety issue," said Hoyle.

Although the Planning Commission decided to postpone creating an electronic message board ordinance, they may soon be considering a request to allow modifications to the existing electronic billboard near the Turlock Auto Plaza.

Matt Rogers of Rogers Media Company told the Planning Commission on Thursday that he delayed submitting a proposal to renovate the 85-foot electronic billboard to see what the Commission planned to do with a possible ordinance.

Rogers said he would like to revamp the old billboard and put it back into use.

"It can just sit there like a giant hulking thing or you can let us bring it back to life and be a boon to the city," he said.

Rogers told the Commission that he does not allow any objectionable advertising on any of the electronic billboards he owns and the project would help further economic development in Turlock.