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Future signs along freeways shouldnt brighten lives of residents
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Vince Hernandez doesn’t want people living along the north side of the Highway 120 Bypass to have to wear sunglasses when looking out their rear windows at night should an electronic message sign go in across the freeway for the premium outlet malls.

The potential for illuminated high-tech electronic message signs that could annoy and disrupt the lives of nearby residents prompted Hernandez and his council colleagues to postpone considering changes to the municipal sign ordinance. The changes, as presented at Tuesday’s meeting would have set no specific perimeters on signs in terms of absolute height and size but instead submit them to a use permit review process that would give residents the ability to appeal staff decisions to the Planning Commission and City Council levels.

However, Manteca resident Linda LaRock was uneasy with the fact signs could possibly get approved and put in place without nearby homeowners getting a say in the matter. It was noted the current notification process for use permits - which is 300 feet - could easily exclude a number of residents impacted by such a sign.

Mayor Willie Weatherford said he could appreciate there was “an ongoing fear” that staff could approve such a sign and it could be put in place without nearby residents having their concerns addressed.

Hernandez referenced problems that residents of El Rancho Mobile Home Park along Highway 99 north of Yosemite Avenue had when the Spreckels Park message board sign went in. They complained about the brightness disturbing them in their homes making it hard to sleep even with curtains drawn. The $1 million sign was removed after several years due to the inability to secure adequate advertising.

The city staff has received several inquiries about applying for electronic signs which promoted the proposal to update provisions addressing regional recreation/hospitality centers in regards to signage along Highway 120 and Highway 99. More specifically it zeroes in on electronic display signs that could be used by businesses such as water parks, outlet malls, conference facilities, and horse-racing tracks, professional sports team complexes, gaming casinos, or large formal retail centers.

There are only a few places such 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.

Community Development Director Fredric Clark said the signs illumination and message rotation would have to comply with Caltrans safety standards as well. Caltrans bans message changes more frequent than every 10 seconds.

Some of the rules that staff proposed for such signs include:

•They couldn’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 will not create a nuisance to surrounding uses, the vicinity, or traffic.

•The sign shall 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.

LaRock and others felt that the rules needed to be more specific.