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Council votes 4-1 to allow electronic signs
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Saying they will prove "unsightly" and "distracting" to motorists, Mayor Anthony Cannella remained opposed to on-site electronic interchangeable copy signs during Monday evening's 4-1 Ceres City Council vote to alter the sign ordinance to allow them.

Council members Bret Durossette, Ken Lane, Guillermo Ochoa and Chris Vierra supported modifying the sign ordinance to allow Ceres businessman Dirk Wyatt to erect an electronic sign in front of his Mitchell Road office.

The action came after over a year of delay and city study and a June 2009 vote of the Ceres Planning Commission thumbing their nose at Wyatt's request.

Councilman Bret Durosette stated in December that he supported electronic signs since they would promote business in today's economy.

Cannella, however, had an attitude toward the signs similar to that of the Planning Commission.

"Any benefit ...will be offset how the aesthetics will be affected," said the mayor. "It will affect our city for many, many years. I just think it is a bad idea and I am absolutely opposed to this idea."

Not only did the council open the door for flashy modern signs, the council was more generous with sign sizes that will be allowed. Last year city staff offered a proposal to allow such signs on the basis of parcel size. It was originally proposed that for parcels under an acre in size - Wyatt's is one of them - a sign no taller than six feet off the ground and no larger than 25 square feet would be allowed. However, the council decided to allow signs with a face of up to 32 square feet. The ordinance will also allow electronic signs of up to 12 feet off the ground for businesses with existing signs sitting six feet off the ground over a parcel less than an acre in size. Wyatt's 12-foot-tall metal sign was set up before the city modified its sign ordinance to forbids signs as tall and thus Wyatt's is a legal non-conforming use. Wyatt wanted to be able to erect an electronic sign of the same height, which is twice as tall as what city planners suggested last year.

The city will be considering electronic signs only for the main arterials such as Hatch, Mitchell, Whitmore, Central and Service roads under the Conditional Use Permit process.

City Attorney Mike Lyions told the council that the city would not be able to constitutionally ban alcohol or tobacco product ads on the signs. Thus the council scrubbed its desire to include the restriction.

Messages or scenes on the new signs cannot be changed faster than one per every 20 seconds.