CARLSBAD — One local called the proposal, “really ugly.” Another deemed the design, “visual pollution.”
Local residents made their feelings about a new digital sign for Car County Carlsbad clear at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
Meeting attendees clapped after resident Stan Proust called the digital sign, “nothing better than a billboard on steroids.”
City Council got the message, and not only ruled against a new digital sign for the car dealerships along Interstate 5, but also took steps to ban the possibility of future digital signs in the city.
The digital sign proposal was brought before council as part of the local car dealers’ requested amendments to Car Country Carlsbad’s specific plan. The specific plan governs the land use and development of the 85-acre area mostly east of I-5 that today contains 16 dealers with 24 franchises.
The proposed amendments would allow a digital sign up to 65-feet tall along I-5 that would display alternating advertisements for the dealerships on an LED screen.
Other amendments included permitting enhanced static signs for each dealership, directional signs, and a simplified review process for minor improvements within Car Country.
Carlsbad’s Planning Commission previously voted in favor of all of the proposed amendments except for the digital sign.
Car Country currently has one 35-foot tall static sign adjacent to the northbound lanes on I-5.
“Our existing sign is very tired and very old, and it shows,” said JP Painter, the general manager of Hoehn Acura and the chairman of the Car Country task force.
Painter and other managers of the local dealerships stated that a new digital sign would increase sales by up to 12 percent annually, the equivalent of 3,600 cars. Improved sales would bring in more local jobs and earn greater tax revenues for the city.
But about a dozen residents spoke at the meeting to oppose the digital sign and expressed skepticism that such a sign could bring in that large of an increase in sales.
Councilmember Keith Blackburn pointed out that while residents may not be thrilled with the sign, the increased tax revenues from more car sales could contribute to future projects in the city.
“Every single quality of life issue in the city has price tags attached to it,” he said.
But ultimately City Council sided unanimously with the residents. They voted to approve all of the proposed specific plan amendments for Car Country except for the digital sign.
Councilmember Michael Schumacher said a digital sign would contrast with Carlsbad’s small beach town feel.
“There are better ways to improve marketability other than a digital sign,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mark Packard.
“For my vote, I’d just as much kill all digital signs,” said Mayor Matt Hall.
Hall went on to say that in the spirit of treating all businesses alike, digital signs should not be allowed for any business in the city.
With the support of the rest of the council, Hall directed city staff to explore ways to ban digital signs in the city.