OCEANSIDE — In an unexpected 3-2 vote the City Council denied approval of a digital billboard on Rancho del Oro Drive and state Route 78 on Wednesday.
Many, including opponents of the electronic billboard, expected the project to go through.
Five years ago Oceanside amended its sign ordinance to allow four digital billboards on city property along its arterial roadways. The motivation was to generate funds for the cash strapped city during the recession.
BGT Media, and two other companies, were approved by the city to install revenue-producing billboards.
The billboard proposed by BGT Media on Wednesday would pay the city a $180,000 annual lease fee for 25 years and 25 percent of its profits. Tom Missett, a partner in BGT Media, said the sign could generate $500,000 annually for Oceanside.
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez, and Councilmen Chuck Lowery and Jack Feller voted to deny the project.
Sanchez and Lowery were anticipated to vote against the billboard. Sanchez voted no to the 2012 ordinance to allow digital billboards.
Feller’s vote to deny the project was unexpected. He previously supported digital billboards.
On Wednesday he said he still thought they were a good idea, but wanted to add an amendment to limit the number of billboards. He said he has always been concerned that approval of billboards on city property would spark an increase of billboards on private property.
Feller was not able to make his motion because a motion to deny the project was already on the table.
Following the vote Feller said denying the project, as presented, was better than passing it.
“I was trapped,” Feller said. “I wanted to reduce the number of signs. I wish it hadn’t happened that way.”
Feller added he doesn’t think the City Council will take a second look at its sign ordinance in the near future.
Missett had a more positive outlook about future of a council approval.
“They invited us in,” Missett said. “They changed the ordinance so the sign could be developed.”
Missett said he plans to talk to the mayor and city attorney to weigh the company’s next steps.
Prior to the meeting Kevin Brown, founder of Scenic Oceanside, said he hoped council would request an environmental impact report for the billboard, which impacts a wildlife corridor.
Brown, California Fish and Game, San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, Scenic San Diego, Preserve Calavera, and Oceanside and North County residents spoke against the billboard on Wednesday. They cited negative aesthetic, environmental and historical impacts.
If the project had passed, Oceanside would have been the first city to approve a digital billboard along Route 78.
Carlsbad has stood against electronic billboards on Route 78. Vista postponed allowing two along the highway.