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Orchard Valley seeking OK for electronic LED sign along Bypass

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POSTED July 28, 2012 1:22 a.m.

By DENNIS WYATT

Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin

It’s definitely a sign of the times.

As Manteca debates how to regulate the proliferation of low tech “human signs” the biggest retail center in Manteca is moving forward with plans to put in place a cutting edge light-emitting diode (LED) electronic message display board along the 120 Bypass.

The Community Development Department is now reviewing an application from Poag & McEwen to install an electronic LED display sign at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. Representatives last year indicated that Craig Realty, the firm working to bring in outlet stores such as the new Banana Republic store opening by October, believes such a sign is crucial to securing more retailers.

The application review includes a public workshop with nearby impacted properties including homeowners on the north side of the 120 Bypass. A workshop has yet to be established. The final decision on the sign is in the hands of the City Council.

The City Council in 2011 - after establishing ground rules for such signs as well as making note of Caltrans requirements - adopted an ordinance that also identified specific areas along the Highway 120 Bypass corridor and Highway 99 where such signs might be allowed.

The technology is much different attitude than 12 years ago when an investment firm sought - and received - permission to put in a high-tech electronic message board on one of the Spreckels Park signs along Highway 99. After it was in place a number of residents in the El Rancho Mobile Home Park directly across the freeway complained they light still came into their homes even with drapes drawn.

LED lighting is much softer by comparison.

Council instructed staff last year to go beyond the state required 300-foot notifications for development issues due to the lights having a possible impact beyond that distance. Although no one has formerly complained to the city about the existing Bass Pro Shops signs which exceed what the city usually allows due to it being along a highway corridor, it is clear the visual impacts on Bass Pro Shops extend well beyond 300 feet from it as you go north of the 120 Bypass.

There are only a few places such LED billboard signs could go in Manteca including south of the Highway 120 Bypass between Union Road and a point east of Main Street, the southern quadrants of the 120 Bypass and Airport Way interchange, along the 120 Bypass near the future McKinley Avenue interchange, the southwest corner of the Highway 99 and 120 Bypass interchange, the area that is now vacant between Highway 99 and the Northgate Drive/Main Street intersection, as well as on the northwest corner of the Lathrop  Road and Highway 99 interchange.

Some of the rules for the LED signs include:

• They can’t exceed a height or a sign area that would be a nuisance to neighboring properties or motorists.

• They must be constructed of quality materials and of similar design and architecture as the regional recreation/hospitality center it is advertising.

• The hours of operation and illumination as well as changing images on the electronic display can not create a nuisance to surrounding uses, the vicinity, or traffic.

• The sign must aid in the generation of sales tax revenue and/or promote the City of Manteca in a positive manner.

• The sign will be maintained in such a manner that the screen is fully functioning at all times. If the screen does develop areas with no or improper illumination that affect the overall quality of the images, the screen shall be turned off until necessary repairs have been made. The city’s Community Development Director has the authority to make such a determination.

Electronic message sign illumination and message rotation would have to comply with Caltrans safety standards as well. Caltrans bans message changes more frequent than every 10 seconds.

Great Wolf Resort - should they end up building a hotel and indoor water park complete with conference center next door to Costco - has also indicated they might be interested in having a LED sign.

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