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Electronic billboards go up in Rocklin

Residents claiming new signs can create hazards
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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In spite of more than a dozen citizens voicing their concerns, the Rocklin City Council voted 4-1 to approve new LED billboards for three locations along Highway 65 and Interstate 80. Three old-style billboards along I-80 will be removed as part of the city’s agreement with Clear Channel. Each new LED billboard is expected to be nearly 45-feet high with a 14-foot by 48-foot electronic advertising space that would change every eight seconds. Rocklin resident Norm Rogers asked the council at their Feb. 28 meeting to preserve the way of life in Rocklin because no one wants to live near electronic signs. “I would have hoped this council, in being presented with the idea, would have rejected the idea from the get go,” Rogers said. “Rather than wanting to put up new monumental signs would have been working toward the removal of existing signs as many enlightened communities are doing.” Rocklin citizen Rick Davis referred to the new LED billboards as “sky trash,” “litter on a stick” and “weapons of mass distraction.” “Billboards, in general, cause traffic accidents,” Davis claimed. Rocklin council member George Magnuson cast the lone dissenting vote based on safety concerns for a LED sign at Mercedes Benz of Rocklin, which he said, would be a distraction to I-80 drivers north of the Rocklin Road interchange. Rocklin Deputy Police Chief Dan Ruden said the California Highway Patrol has waved off undo safety concerns. “They had really nothing to attribute to the presence of the signs in their collision data,” Ruden said. “Anecdotally, I don’t recognize a lot of crashes occurring there.” However, Magnuson did not agree with the assessment. “In my opinion, it’s a dangerous intersection,” Magnuson said. “Yes, there have been accidents at that intersection and it’s a very short merge.” Driver distraction was also the issue for the proposed billboard location at Stanford Ranch Road and Highway 65. But the loss of open space and light pollution was the primary concern for a third sign location north of the Rocklin 65 Business Park on Highway 65. Residents living in the Arroyo Vista condos, just 1,225 feet away, lined up to address council members. “I’m afraid my property value will be going down,” Arroyo Vista resident Katie Knox said. Clear Channel representative Michael Wagner reassured the council that new technology will constantly adjust the brightness of the sign with sensors and will be angled away from residential views. “It’s extremely directional,” Michael Wagner said, “The light spillage is much less than a traditional sign. It’s extremely modern technology.” The billboards will be monitored 24/7 and will be available for Amber Alerts and other emergency notifications. After residents finished speaking, council members very deliberately explained their positions. “Each project that comes along is very difficult because we do hear from the citizens,” Council member Peter Hill said. “I’ve tried to listen to those concerns and take into account as much of the concern as Ican.” As far as safety, Hill said, the report was inconclusive. “I’ve been on the council long enough where I approved the first stop light in Rocklin. We heard similar things — that the world was going to end. The world didn’t end,” Hill said. Scott Yuill said the signs are not unusual, adding he had visited similar sign locations in Sacramento and Southern California. “We have signs that exist right now on I-80 and Highway 50,” Yuill said. “I’ve made conscious decisions to go there at different times of the day and evening. They do not cast such a glare as normal signs.” As for residents’ concerns, Yuill said he also checked out the view at Arroyo Vista. “I take this very seriously,” he said. “The Justice Center is going to have more light. The traffic, frankly, is only going to grow and cast more light and be more noticeable than the sign.” Yuill said the debate from citizens was more philosophical. “I want the best for the community. I support the sign program,” Yuill said. Mayor Brett Storey said state environmental study rules under the California Environmental Quality Act are not designed to answer anything philosophical, but stated the city had done its homework on this issue for a number of years. “The reason we’re moving forward on this is because we have three signs — not 15. We wanted to replace the (old) billboards, quite frankly, that don’t look good and aren’t effective on the freeways.” Storey said while his main concern was safety, he was satisfied with Ruden’s report. “I’m comfortable the safety issues have been dealt with,” Storey said. The ordinance amendment will limit the LED billboard to just the three locations. Clear Channel, which will operate the billboards, did not indicate when construction would begin. The city of Rocklin expects to receive an estimated $100,000 a year in new revenue from the deal, according to city documents. Currently, the city has a nearly $500,000 budget shortfall. ________ LED Billboards • Along I-80 at Mercedes of Rocklin near Rocklin Road • At Stanford Ranch Road exit on Highway 65 • At Rocklin Business Park on Highway 65 New signs provide $100k revenue source to city. Three old-style billboards on I-80 would be removed Source: City of Rocklin/Clear Channel