The Turlock Planning Commission approved Garton Tractor to display signs with brand names, deviating from current Sign Design Guidelines.
After much negotiation, the decision passed Thursday night by a 3-1 vote, with Chair Mike Brem, Vice Chair Jeanine Bean, and Commissioner Aben Williams in favor and Commissioner Alex Salcedo in opposition.
Commissioners Victor Pedroza and Soraya Fregosi could not participate in discussion of the issue.
According to Deputy Director of Development Services Debbie Whitmore, it has been determined that when significant deliberation has occurred regarding an item, as it was in the Garton sign case, that only those Commissioners who participated in that discussion may participate in the decision on the project. Commissioners Fregosi and Pedroza did not attend the previous meeting where the Garton sign item was discussed.
Garton is now permitted to display brand signs within their sign area limitation, on the condition that there is not more than one sign for the same brand on the same wall.
At the July 7, 2011, Turlock Planning Commission meeting, Garton was also approved to remove the existing 35 foot tall “New Holland” sign. Its replacement will be an 18 foot internally illuminated, freestanding “New Holland” sign.
At the last meeting in June, Staff found that the proposed signs did not conform to the Sign Guidelines.
The Planning Commission decided to deny approval of the signs at that time as approving them may result in precedent for future sign proposals.
Since then, Garton was able to find a Conditional Use Permit from Stanislaus County permitting the 35 foot sign. This results in the sign being considered a legal non-conforming sign, consequently approving the new 18 foot sign.
According to Sign Design Guidelines, “The primary role of signs should be to identify, not to advertise,” said Katie Melson, Assistant Planner for Development Services.
The general principle of the Guidelines is sign content should be limited to business name or address.
The exception to this is seen at car dealerships and businesses that have separate licensed businesses in their facility such as Starbucks at Safeway.
Turlock Director of Development Services Debbie Whitmore explained that deviating from the Guidelines would allow businesses to display brand signs within their sign area limitations.
President of Garton Tractor Bill Garton explained that manufacturers have expectations for dealers involving the display of brand signs. “It’s a financial reward,” he said comparing the situation to car dealerships.
Planning Commission Chair Mike Brem was supportive of permitting the additional signs.
“We’re trying to build a business climate here too,” Brem said. “If we have people that have expectations about a dealership doing something that they’re supposed to do in order to help their business, I don’t know why we’d want to turn that away. I think we need to look at that on an individual basis.”
Commissioner Alex Salcedo and Vice Chair Jeanine Bean had concerns that approving the display of brand names would result in other businesses excessively using signs, causing sign clutter.
Commissioner Salcedo said that citizens have told him they appreciate the way Turlock looks because there is not an excessive amount of signs around the city.
“What kind of Pandora’s box are we opening if we allow these additional signs?” asked Vice Chair Bean.
With some limitations, Garton now has the ability to display brand signs which will help them with business necessities, and for aesthetic and directional purposes.
“We want a good image,” said Mr. Garton.