After spending months talking about whether to allow freeway-facing signage on shopping centers, the issue died Monday after the city council could not reach agreement on the topic.
Mayor Dave Glass recused himself because he owns a significant amount of Target stock and the remaining six council members were evenly split on the issue.
Councilmembers Mike Harris, Mike Healy and Chris Albertson voted to support a zoning ordinance change that would permit tenants at the new Target shopping center to put freeway-facing signs to draw customers.
Their argument was that many Petaluma retailers already have freeway-facing signage, including at the outlets, on Auto Row as well as Cattlemen’s, Club One and Kohl’s and preventing others from doing the same was not fair.
“I think the exceptions have swallowed the rule,” Councilman Healy said. “And I don’t think we are giving up anything in community character by allowing this.”
But councilmembers Gabe Kearney, Teresa Barrett and Tiffany Renee saw it differently, saying the signs--which would be lit up at night-- would alter Petaluma’s unique character and make the city look like Anytown, USA.
“Any city that really values itself does not turn its freeway into a billboard,” Barrett said. “We give away a lot of our identity if we allow this."
Kearney, who voted against the proposed amendment when it was discussed at Planning Commission on June 12, said he had a hard time believing that customers would be less likely to shop there without the signs, something Regency, the developer of the East Washington shopping center, has claimed.
“It’s going to be busy from the day they open because people have been waiting for this project for seven years,” Kearney said.
The zoning amendment was proposed after Regency approached the city and asked for the changes, arguing that the new tenants, including Sprouts, an organic grocery store, Dick’s Sporting Goods, TJ Maxx and Ulta Cosmetics had requested the signs and would not come to Petaluma if they were not allowed to place them there.
The shopping center is currently under construction and is expected to open in summer of 2013.
Sound off: What do you think about the decision to not allow new freeway facing signage in Petaluma?