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Wyatt must wait months longer on electronic sign request
City Council members appear poised to change Ceres' sign ordinance to allow electronic signs but hit a snag in Monday evening's discussion about proper sizing of such signs.

After about a year of delay, the issue was tabled once again - until a January study session - making Dirk Wyatt wait another three months for an answer to whether or not he can erect an electronic sign in front of his Mitchell Road insurance firm. Wyatt applied for an electronic sign in January. He told the council he preferred to see a decision Monday night after Councilman Chris Vierra suggested continuing the matter to Feb. 8.

The Ceres Planning Commission voted in June to reject electronic signs in a 3-1 vote.

Councilmembers were at odds with each other, and Wyatt, over the matter. Councilmen Bret Durosette said electronic signs would be good for business in today's economic climate. Mayor Anthony Cannella stated his continued opposition to the signs while Councilmen Ken Lane, Guillermo Ochoa and Vierra appeared open to them.

City planning staff has been crafting an ordinance over the last year that would allow electronic signs on the basis of commercial parcel size. Those with parcels under an acre - Wyatt's is one of them - would be allowed a sign no taller than six feet off the ground and no larger than 25 square feet. The ordinance also calls for monument bases, not signs on a pole like in front of Wyatt's business.

Wyatt's 12-foot-tall metal sign of 32 square feet was erected before the city changed its sign ordinance; it now forbids signs that large and thus Wyatt's is a legal non-conforming use. Wyatt wants to be able to erect an electronic sign of the same height, but that's twice as tall as what city planners suggests. He also wants the electronic sign to be 32 square feet and remain on a pole.

Councilman Ken Lane said he is willing to allow Wyatt to have a monument sign at 12 feet tall but only with a face of 25 square feet. That prompted talk about the sign being a visual blockage for motorists.

"That's a big wall there," commented Cannella.

If approved as written, the ordinance text amendment could result in many businesses erecting larger signs than is currently allowed, said Senior Planner Tom Westbrook.

Wyatt is also at odds over how frequently messages can be changed on an electronic sign. He wants the ability to change screens every four seconds, while the city recommends 20 seconds.

The proposed law calls for message screens to not change at night nor be excessively bright. They also could not advertise alcohol or tobacco products.

Vierra said he is concerned about signs visually distracting drivers and creating aesthetics issues on streets like Mitchell Road. He wanted more time to pore over a proposed electronic sign ordinance currently being considered by the San Jose City Council.