When the Elk Grove City Council Loosens Sign Regs, Will Moore and McDonalds Get Their Sign?

August 27, 2013 | When they meet this Wednesday night, the Elk Grove City Council is set to loosen the city's highway billboard ordin...

August 27, 2013 |

When they meet this Wednesday night, the Elk Grove City Council is set to loosen the city's highway billboard ordinance.

By creating the so-called business center sign overlay district, the reworking of the city's Municipal Code Title 23 would essentially establish six zones along I-5 and Highway 99 and their interchanges where billboards could be established for non-freeway-adjacent businesses to advertise. Under current rules, only property that directly abuts the respective freeways can have billboards.

Fast food and gas station developer Gil Moore.
The loosening of this regulation can be directly traced to a request first publicly voiced in March, 2012 by gas station and fast food impresario Gil Moore. Hoping to develop a fast food-gas station-pizzeria-liquor store strip center on the northeast corner of E. Stockton Blvd. and Sheldon Road, Moore, a generous contributor to council members, asked the council to allow his proposed non-adjacent development access to a freeway billboard.

Part of Moore's motivation to acquire a Highway 99 billboard was so he could land a McDonald's store at his development. McDonald's representative Susan Green appeared numerous times before the council and planning commission saying that if the Chicago-based fast food giant did not have the billboard, there was a good chance they would not locate a store there even though in the same time frame a new McDonald's opened on Elk Grove Blvd. and I-5 that did not have highway signage.    

"It's a wonderful project but we have run across a stumbling block...we are requesting off-site signage," Moore said at the March 28, 2012 city council meeting. "It appears it is not possible the way it is so it will put an end to our project."

Subsequent to Moore's plea, the city held a widely criticized workshop that many participants claimed was tilted in favor of Moore's sign objective. After several hearings in front of the city council and planning commission, the aforementioned ordinance change was developed.

When the sign ordinance changes are adopted on Wednesday night, and make no mistake about it they will be adopted, Moore still has a couple of hurdles to overcome. First the property is currently zoned for high-density residential so the property will need to be rezoned.

Then there is the matter of the property owners near Moore's project, Winn Properties and Angelo G. Tsakapoulos, that are directly adjacent to Highway 99. Representatives for both entities have regularly attended meetings pertaining to Moore's request and have strongly opposed any change.

Aside from being significant political contributors in their own right in Elk Grove and the region, it appears neither party was amenable to allowing Moore, who they claim paid far less for his non-adjacent parcel than they did, to co-locate a McDonald's or AM-PM sign on their property.

For Moore, there might be a few work-arounds though. 

According to the staff report, a sign can be placed on "a legal lot that directly abuts either SR-99 or I-5." The proposed ordinance further states "The term “directly abuts” shall include lots that are separated from the State highway by a frontage road but shall not include lots that are separated by another lot or other local roads."

Readers may recall that last September the city council held closed session real property negotiations for some surplus property. As reported then, those negotiations were requested by a representative of Moore for the possible purchase of surplus property owned by the city.

In communication from the city, the Elk Grove city clerk provided the following description from the city's planning department of the parcel Moore was interested in at the time - "The property is a strip of land between East Stockton Blvd and Highway 99, south of Sheldon Road.  The property has no APN or street address.  It can be described as the parcel made by the remnant strip of land located within the vicinity of Sheldon Road/Highway 99 Interchange, on the west side of East Stockton Blvd. south of the drainage channel and Park and Ride lot." 

Subsequent to that, at the September 26, 2012 regular city council meeting, the council discussed the possibility of selling by competitive bidding several surplus lots, one of which (8627 Bow St.) is near Moore's property that would be suitable for a sign and other uses.

The council approved by a 4-1 vote to sell all the surplus with the exception of 8340 Sheldon Road. The disposition of those parcels is currently unknown.  

Although there were no reported deals made at that time, depending on the interpretation of the new ordinance, could the availability of one of these surplus properties be Moore's salvation?
Angelo G. Tsakopoulos
Angelo G. Tsakopoulos
Angelo G. Tsakopoulos
Angelo G. Tsakopoulos

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Sarah Johnson said...

Currently, there is a discussion of incentives for businesses. I want to know the cost of all the staff time that has gone into this convoluted work-around for Moore's benefit. Is this not another incentive to benefit a specific business?
Elk Grove is steadily sinking into the mud of political gimmickry and becoming just another "Anywhere U.S.A.". It's a shame!

Anonymous said...

Our city fathers love their Walmarts and McDonalds and best of all the $$ that come along with them. I have never understood the sign gimmic when you're 15 miles from Sacto going north and if you're traveling south, you have already made your Sacto stop. I live here and have to leave to do most of my shopping. If the city spent half as much time trying to bring businesses & jobs to EG as they do with this gimmickry we would all be a world better off. Kinda reminds me of a bunch of elementary kids...jump from "Signs" and McDonalds to MLS Soccer Stadium or Aquatics Center. Should be focusing on what will bring this younger generation back to the city when they graduate from college and are looking for some high-tech jobs in a few years. Nothing I'm seeing so far leads me to believe they have even thought about that...things are a changin' with this new class of graduates. H---, I'm of the older generation and I leave here to do most of my shopping. Seems as though not a one of our city fathers has any business sense.

Aaah, I feel better already........

Medical Mecca said...

Elk Grove, land of fast food, retail, and minimum wage jobs! Speaking of signs, whatever happened to all those huge "wayfinding" signs that were supposed to be installed all over town at every major intersection?

Two different philosophies at play: (1) bigger signs and more signs = economic development; (2) fewer tasteful signs and quality design = image of quality town that cares about its appearance.

One philosophy easily gets your war chest stuffed and you get reelected without having to listen to the people. The other philosophy relies on active citizens who will support candidates who look beyond the war chest. Guess which philosophy has worked so far?

Cal Worthington said...

The wayfinding signs are alive and well at the Elk Grove Auto Mall.

Anonymous said...

I am so disappointed with this council. My experience tells me this revised sign ordinance is a done deal. The citizens who worked hard on the original sign ordinance should feel violated by their government. I have seen no evidence to suggest the original sign ordinance wasn't working. What I have seen is a disgruntled developer, who did not purchase prime land, wanting prime land privileges. So, he goes to council, deposit money into their campaign account; tries to say he lives here; tries to pretend he has donated for years to civic causes; and whoa, a new and improved sign ordinance that allows him the prime time privilege he was too cheap to purchase in the first place. I guess it's who you know and who you take out to dinner that counts around here. Sadly our city is losing its appeal. It will become just another stop on Hwy 99...not unlike Coalinga, Sanger, Fowler and others. We will be a reason to stop and get gas and fries, then get back into the car and drive another 20 to the arena in downtown Sacramento.

Thomas A. Anderson said...

The formula for success in business is to grease the palms of the council members and magically things happen. If I am not mistaken Moore donated $10,000 to Detrick during one campaign filing period and of course Cooper, Davis and Hume were awarded handsomely as well. Detrick even acknowledged a ski outing with Moore and his family. I wonder who paid for that? Can you say Quid Pro Quo?

Unfortunately for the general public it is more like persona non grata.

Setting the Stage said...

This is how it will go down. Steve Detrick can’t take the lead on the change in the sign ordiance because everyone knows he received the most money from Gil Moore, over $25K, if you include the $10K Detrick’s son got for Fittest of Elk Grove. Both Detricks received $10K about the same time Moore filed the plans for his project and then entered the Elk Grove scene as the end all be all philanthropist.

It must be noted that Moore sent emails to the council that he wanted to contribute to their favorite charities as well – Photo op with Moore and Detrick giving $5K to the Senior Center.

It was also Detrick who initially asked for the change in the sign ordinance to be placed as an agenda item, after Moore’s public comment, setting this entire fiasco in motion. So thinking we are all stupid and haven’t figured it out it that it is Detrick who is behind all of this, it will be Pat Hume who steps up and takes the lead tomorrow night with Detrick nodding in agreement with everything Hume says. Too late Detrick, we all know this was quid pro quo!

This would all be over if it hadn’t been for Angelo G. Tsakopoulos and George Carpenter aligning with citizens against the sign ordinance for different reasons, but equally as valid. Tsakopoulus’ lawyer, Matthew Keasling and Carpenter, speaking on behalf of Winn Properties, are smart guys and they have countered the dog and pony show Moore has put forth. Both Winn are Tsakopoulos are powerful developers in the community. And if Moore gets what he wants, we will never hear from him again. The other two will continue to be major players in Elk Grove.

Moore hired his big guns as well with the likes of John Hodgson, but Moore can’t sit and let his experts to their job, he loves the camera, the limelight, and in the process makes his hired guns look like peons. Maybe he will bring out his chef to speak tomorrow night, as he did at the forum. Citizens were not impressed with Moore’s entourage.

Also adamantly against the change in the sign ordinance in the staff report is Sheldon Road Chevron owner Rocky Yee, who put a lot into his public comment, and is very much worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Look here, the City Council will attend the meeting with open minds, reserving their final judgment until the public hearing is over. Each member of the public will have three minutes to express their opinions, and after considering the entire testimony, only then will they make up their minds. Money does not buy votes. These hard earned dollars are invested in our leaders so they may guide our city into the future. Without them, we would be lost and our city would not be the gem it is today.

Anonymous said...

To Anon at 13:10
I think you drank too much Kool-aid. Your remarks are certainly "tongue-in-cheek" right? If you really believe the council hasn't already hashed this out, you're absoluately stupid or you are Mr. Detrick in drag. No other way around it. Moore's money has paid for the sign ordinance changes.

Thomas A. Anderson said...

The cynicism of these comments certainly reveal a common held believe that most of the decisions made in public are already pre-determined. The council deliberations are nothing more than a dog and pony show for the public to give the illusion that our electeds are acting in good-faith and for the public good. "Setting the stage" above certainly has the whole dog and pony show pegged.

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