Elk Grove could have freeway-facing "monument" signs 50 feet tall looming on the horizon, as the city contemplates changing an ordinance that prohibits such signs for businesses not located next to highways.
While some residents and council members argue that having more freeway signs is a good way to promote business during an economic slump, others are concerned about the proliferation of unattractive signs at every offramp.
The issue was raised in March by developer Gil Moore, a local resident trying to build a gas station and restaurants about a half mile from Highway 99.
Moore's proposed 13,600-square-foot building at the northeast corner of Sheldon Road and East Stockton Boulevard would feature an Arco gas station, a McDonald's fast-food restaurant, a wine and liquor store, and several other eateries.
During negotiations, Arco and McDonald's said they would require an off-site, freeway-oriented sign to direct customers from the highway to the development.
But current city regulations allow freeway-facing signs only on property that houses commercial businesses next to the freeway. The city also prohibits signs taller than 20 feet, eliminating a monument sign, such as the one at Natomas Crossing along Interstate 80 or at Broadstone on Highway 50 in Folsom.
In a City Council debate on the issue April 11, Councilwoman Sophia Scherman said she was not in favor of changing the city's sign ordinance to "get people to go to a McDonald's or a yogurt shop or whatever." She said she doesn't support a change in policy to allow freestanding monument signs towering more than 50 feet.
"That's just too tall," she said.
Councilman Steven Detrick, however, said city officials frequently talk about stimulating business and should take this opportunity to review the signage rules and make changes if needed.
"These are commercial corridors anyway," he said of freeways.
Vice Mayor Patrick Hume called the Natomas Crossing monument sign "the most god-awful thing I have to see on my way to and from the airport. I don't want to see a bunch of 50-foot-tall signs up and down the highway in Elk Grove."
But Moore said he wasn't planning a 50-foot-tall sign and called on the council to make changes that would allow "tasteful, well-designed and consistent signs" to direct people to businesses beyond those next to the freeways.
He pointed out that his proposed project would create 180 full- and part-time jobs and bring in $300,000 to $600,000 annually in fuel and sales taxes.
The public will have an opportunity to learn more about the issue and offer its input at an informational workshop 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the council chambers, 8400 Laguna Palms Way.
The city has two interchanges on Interstate 5 and five interchanges, with another one proposed, along Highway 99.