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Businesses may hang temporary banners for now

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POSTED January 9, 2009 12:58 a.m.

LATHROP — Lathrop businesses may display temporary banner signs no larger than 60 square feet to advertise their products or services for a period of 90 days within any given year, with an option to extend that time period.

Those are some of the elements that the City Council directed city staff to use as guidelines in preparing draft amendment to existing municipal ordinance governing the use of advertising banners at business establishments.

The matter came before the council for discussion only and to gather input from the public, and did not require an action except to give staff direction on what to take into consideration in drafting the amendment.

Council member Christopher Mateo said he wanted to see a “lenient” ordinance designed to assist and support the business community especially in these tough economic times, but qualified at the same time, “so long as it is safe.”
Council member Sonny Dhaliwal said he was all for the 90-day time frame for such banners to be displayed, either continuously or cumulatively during any given year.

“Businesses need help right now,” he said.

Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Kristy Sayles — Councilman Robert Oliver was also absent — agreed with Dhaliwal but added that she wanted to see an option incorporated in the draft which would allow for “an option to extend” the suggested time frame.

Riding on the coat tails of Salcedo’s suggestion for an extension, Lathrop entrepreneur J. “Chaka” Santos went further as to suggest another alternative to the 90-day time frame. Give businesses 150 days, maybe even 180 days “at least” to hang those temporary advertising banners “pro bono — thank you very much,” then charge a straight banner “re-instatement” or extension fee of $25 but that the re-instated banners “must be new and clean” since these get really dirty after a certain period of time of being exposed to the elements.

For guidelines in preparing the draft amendment, city staff surveyed existing regulations being used by surrounding cities regarding this matter. This is what they found out:

• Manteca requires an application for tracking purposes but does not collect any fees. The city also does not have any specified limit on the size of the banner but that it could be displayed for only up to 30 days per every three-month period.

• Ripon requires a $25 application fee with no specific size limit, and allows such banners to be displayed for up to 45 days only in any calendar year.

• Escalon, which requires a maximum size of just 20 square feet which must be attached to the building, does not require the filing of an application or the collection of any fee. Like Ripon, it allows such temporary banners to hang for a maximum period of 45 days but only during a six-month period, with grand opening signs allowed for just up to 30 days.

Stockton and Tracy also do not require applications or fees but have mandated size limits and required time frames.

In response to a question by Council member Mateo as to what the fees are for, Community Development Director Marilyn Ponton said these are to “cover the cost of processing” the applications.

Antonio Castro who is with the nonprofit Lathrop Little League asked how the proposed sign ordinance would affect his organization and other nonprofit groups, or private entities like churches. He was told by the city attorney that these groups would also need to abide by the ordinance.

The council’s directive Tuesday night was to give staff the green light to prepare a draft amendment that will go before the Planning Commission for a public hearing. Following standard protocol on zoning and sign code amendments, the commission will then forward their recommendation to the council which will hold another public hearing before taking a final action to adopt the amended ordinance.

While this process is under way and until an amended code is adopted, the council has ordered that all business in the city be allowed to use such banners.

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