Rancho Cordova approves electronic billboard on Highway 50

Forced to choose between two competing proposals for a digital billboard near Highway 50, the Rancho Cordova City Council gave the nod to one that won’t require redwood trees to be cut down and will result in more traditional billboard signs being eliminated.

State and city restrictions on where digital billboards can go forced the council late Monday to chose between proposals from Sierra Outdoor/CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel Outdoor. The companies wanted to build just east and west of the Naturwood Home Furnishings on Folsom Boulevard. The proposals were within 1,000 feet of one another, which precluded approving both because of a state regulation on distance between electronic billboards. The city also limits digital billboards from being within 2,500 feet of one another.

The council voted 5-0 to have city staff write findings in favor of the Sierra-CBS proposal, and to bring the project back for formal approval next month. Sierra and CBS plan to build the 60-foot sign to the west of the Naturwood store.

While the council voted unanimously for the sign, most council members expressed reservations about both proposals and billboards in general.

“I hate billboards,” Councilman David Sander said.

In that regard, he shared the opinion of about 10 residents, who stayed until midnight to express their opposition to both projects.

Councilwoman Linda Budge also said she was opposed to the signs, but after a majority of council members indicated they would support the Sierra-CBS plan, she and Sander voted for it, too.

Sander said he supported the Sierra-CBS proposal because it would lead to more billboards taken down in exchange for the right to erect the digital sign. Sierra-CBS agreed to remove two sign faces, compared to the one proposed by Clear Channel. Other council members said the additional sign removal was decisive in their decision.

Sander and other council members downplayed the fees the companies were willing to pay the city for the signs. Clear Channel offered to pay the city more than Sierra-CBS – $2.2 million over 25 years, compared to $1.4 million over the same period from Sierra-CBS.

“I have no interest in more money going into city coffers for this,” said Councilman Donald Terry. “What I do want to see is more signs coming down.”

Sierra-CBS also offered to give the city advertising on the sign once every 64 seconds. Council members said that offer played a role in their support for the proposal.

While residents who spoke to the board opposed both plans, some of them said the council should back the Sierra-CBS proposal if they had to pick one. That’s because the Clear Channel proposal called for the removal of 10 mature redwood trees and because the company owns the only digital billboard already in Rancho Cordova.

Several people also wrote to the city, urging the council to reject both signs. They said the signs are unattractive and the light from them would degrade the experience for people on the nearby American River Parkway.

Stephen Green, past president of the Save the American River Association, called the signs “totally unacceptable.”

“These signs don’t serve the community,” he said at the meeting. “They serve the advertisers.”

Clear Channel representative Michael Wagner said he understood that most people would eliminate billboards if they had the choice, “but that’s not the world we live in.”

Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.