In the on-going saga of the attempt to strip Elk Grove's highway billboard ordinance, score one for maintenance of the existing standards.
As reported yesterday, the Elk Grove City Council declined to grant the proposed change that would have allowed non-freeway-adjacent businesses to place billboards along Highway 99 and Interstate 5. The request came from local developer Gil Moore's whose proposed non-highway-adjacent fast food and gas station strip center cannot have a highway billboard under current rules.
As part of his strip center development, Moore has actively pursued locating a McDonald's restaurant. McDonald's has said they are interested in the site if they could get a highway billboard.
Following a workshop the city held for the benefit of the sign change request last June, McDonald's area real estate manager Susan Green, who is a 15-year company veteran, said the fast food giant considers the area surrounding Moore's proposed strip center, the northeast corner of Sheldon Road and E. Stockton Blvd., a low-density area and would generally not locate there without the off-site sign needed to generate sales.
At a regular council meeting later that same month Green reiterated that McDonald's would not be inclined to locate at Moore's proposed strip center without the sign saying it would not get the desired traffic.
However, at this week's meeting Green took a different tact saying that the fast food giant has learned that billboard signs increase sales from 13 to 30 percent. There was no mention that they would not locate their store there without the sign.
After the exchange between Moore and Council Member Pat Hume (watch video above) where Hume asked Moore whether or not the recently opened non-traditional McDonald's on Elk Grove Blvd. and Harbour Pointe Drive near I-5, had a billboard sign, which Moore said it did not, its apparent that McDonald's is in a big bluffing game.
Using Green's testimony from last year, she tried to create the impression that McDonald's would not locate at Moore's strip center without the sign. Yet as the exchange between Moore and Hume demonstrates, McDonald's and Green were perfectly willing to locate a non-free-standing store a quarter of a mile from the freeway without an off site sign, much less a drive-thru.
McDonald's has, in our estimation, been trying to bluff the good people of Elk Grove, the city council, and maybe Moore, into stripping a hard fought battle by a dedicated group of citizens to implement a billboard ordinance for what - a fast food restaurant and more profit for the fast food behemoth? (See story here on rise in McDonald's profits.)
If Moore gets his rezone for this strip center, which is a big if, it will be very surprising if McDonald's does not join Moore's strip center given their willingness to locate on Elk Grove Blvd. and Harbour Pointe Dr. Even if McDonald's doesn't join Moore's strip center, will one less McDonald's in Elk Grove be that big of a loss? Certainly our kids waistline's won't miss it.
We urge the Elk Grove City Council not to be bluffed any further by McDonald's or influenced by the sweet taste of campaign contributions to strip an ordinance meant to keep our city free of inordinate visual blight.
After all if we want to make Elk Grove a destination city, which is the desire our city council, can we afford the visual blight seen in every other city along Highway 99?