Planning Commission rejected request to allow freeway-facing signage

When he suggested his fellow City Council members direct the Planning Commission to rewrite part of a city ordinance to allow freeway-facing signs, Mike Healy assumed the task would be completed.

But the commission, filled with members of a different political bent, returned a 6-0 recommendation to leave the ordinance unchanged.

Today, the council will examine the commission's recommendation and make its own determination. Although Healy's motion passed 3-2, its passage isn't guaranteed this time.

In May, the council heard an appeal from the developers of the Target center, which at 34 acres and 378,000 square feet of retail space, makes East Washington Place the city's largest shopping complex.

Regency Centers wants to place signs on the rear of the buildings, which face Highway 101. It says the tenants, including Dick's Sporting Goods, TJ Maxx Home Goods and Sprouts market, demand them.

Petaluma's existing sign ordinance prohibits signs oriented toward the freeway, although there are numerous exceptions. Regency appealed the Planning Commission's rejection and the council heard the issue in May.

Then, Healy was joined by Chris Albertson and Mike Harris in directing the Planning Commission to revisit the ordinance to allow discretion for "tasteful" freeway-facing signs. Council members Teresa Barrett and Tiffany Renee opposed it.

Mayor David Glass couldn't vote because he owns significant stock in Target, and Gabe Kearney was absent.

But Kearney voted against changing the ordinance in his position as liaison with the planning board.

That could lead to a 3-3 tie today, unless Kearney changes his vote. He has said he would prefer to revisit the entire sign ordinance at one time rather than changing just a portion of it.

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