When Boyett Petroleum razes Barbour's Save Center for a Cruisers convenience store and combined Prime Shine Car Wash, it will be allowed to erect an oversized sign at the corner of Mitchell and Whitmore.
On Monday the Ceres Planning Commission voted 4-0 to a request for a variance from city policy of limiting business signs to no taller than six feet off the ground. The company will be allowed to place a 16-foot-high sign near the corner to replace a larger 45-year-old marque sign that currently sits to the west.
Dale Boyett, president of Boyett Petroleum, came to the commission to seek permission for a 20-foot-tall sign for the combined businesses when Barbour's is remodeled to a 7,200-square-foot Cruisers store and adjoining car wash. The Ceres Planning Commission issued a conditional use permit in March for Boyett to convert the existing convenience store into a Cruisers mini-mart similar to the one at McHenry and Kiernan and Claus and Briggsmore in Modesto.
The city Planning Department informed Boyett that the existing legal non-conformation sign erected at Barbour's in 1968 could be continued but could not be expanded beyond its current 160 square foot in size and 16-foot height - nor could it be moved. The city said that if the existing sign came down, the company would be limited to a sign no larger than 32 square feet in face and no taller than six feet off the ground.
Planners told Boyett that they could not support the company's desire for a sign that towers above city sign limits but suggested taking their request for a variance to the commission. In his staff report to the commission, Associate Planner James Michaels warned commissioners that if they granted the variance that "it may set a precedent for future variance requests of similar nature, which staff believes is not in the best interest of the city."
Evan Porges of Prime Shine argued that the proposed sign would be attractive, suggesting that he was not interested in putting up "banners and the flimsy signs" of his competitor at Service and Mitchell roads. Porges said getting the sign off the ground and up on legs would allow for better landscaping without blocking motorists' visibility.
The commission did make all four findings to legally grant the variance for a 16-foot-tall sign at the corner. Commissioner Robert Kachel said an aspect that makes the request unique is that Barbour's already has a legal nonconforming sign that exceeds the city's sign standards. He expressed doubt that any other business in Ceres has a similar sign and didn't see that the commission was setting a precedent that the city would regret.
Barbour's Save Center has been a part of Ceres landscape since the 1950s. Dennis Barbour sold the three generation family enterprise to Boyett nine years ago. The filling station was remodeled in 2003 to comply with new environmental regulations.
Boyett said his company is remodeling to make the station more competitive.
"We are losing a fair amount of business from folks who just don't like the way it looks," said Boyett. "It's old and has way too much space for our needs."
Boyette owns a total of 12 locations.
The project is expected to be completed within six months with a start-date of construction by Nov. 1.