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Electronic signs issue must wait
Electronic signs and billboards may be in Ceres' future but not until the city sign ordinance is overhauled - possibly a year away - members of the Ceres City Council said Monday.

The council rejected a sign ordinance change proposed by a Ceres businessman to allow interchangeable electronic signs. But they gave Dirk Wyatt a pledge that the sign ordinance needs revamping - possibly to include flashy signs.

Wyatt owns an insurance business on Mitchell Road as well as a number of billboards along Highway 99 in Ceres. His proposal would have allowed him to turn all existing billboards into electronic signs that could be changed remotely with modern technology. Wyatt insists that electronic signs could increase sales for Ceres businesses.

Representing Wyatt, Jake Raper noted that electronic signs in larger cities have been used successfully used by law enforcement to post wanted photos of child abductors and murder suspects.

City planning staffers recommended opposing Wyatt's proposal, on the basis that electronic signs are visually not aesthetic. Senior Planner Tom Westbrook said electronic signs are often distracting to motorists and could cause safety problems. He noted the brilliance of signs which exist at Razzari Ford in Merced and the Turlock Auto Plaza in Turlock.

Raper said new technology offers signs that automatically dim to outdoor conditions.

Mayor Anthony Cannella said he doesn't want electronic signs in Ceres. Councilman Guillermo Ochoa stated that electronic signs in front of the two high schools are "aesthetically pleasing" but that signs could cause "night light pollution."

Councilman Ken Lane expressed desire to have the sign ordinance moved up on the council's already crowded list of priority projects. Agreeing was Councilman Bret Durrossette who recalled being inticed to buy a truck in Turlock after seeing the auto plaza sign. They both said they don't want Wyatt to have to wait another year to get an answer.

"If it brings more money into Ceres that will be a good thing," Durossette said.

Vice Mayor Chris Vierra said while some signs are impressive, standards need to be evaluated.

The discussion focussed on three electronic board signs that exist today at Central Valley Academy on N. Central Avenue and at both Ceres and Central Valley high schools. City Manager Brad Kilger said none of the signs are legal.

The council voted 4-1 (Cannella dissenting) to refund the Wyatt's application fee of $2,250.