After a lengthy hearing on three new billboard signs proposed along Highway 50, the El Dorado County Planning Commission voted two of them down and will bring back the third for another hearing.
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The two signs voted down were proposed for Shingle Springs. Consideration of the third sign, proposed for Cameron Park, will be taken up in two weeks.
The hearing on the signs was heated at times and interrupted twice by closed sessions to discuss legal issues associated with the project.
Two residents — Dyana Anderly and Don Ricketts — filed appeals to the sign permits. Anderly, a former city planner, testified that the negative declaration didn’t address the impact of the three signs and the applicant was not exempt from CEQA. She and Ricketts also appealed the claim by the applicant that the sign permit was deemed approved on Dec. 30, 2011, due to the alleged failure of the county to meet statutory time limits. She asked that permits for all three signs be denied.
Anderly’s testimony was followed by a stream of residents who opposed the signs in Shingle Springs. Most of those protesting did so because of their visual impact. They pointed out that the signs would be located in a scenic corridor and they didn’t want more signs that distract from the views of the foothills. Some were also concerned that if these signs were approved, more would follow.
A spokesperson for the El Dorado County Art Council also testified. She said the billboards are contrary to the visual and aesthetic values that the Art Council and other entities are promoting in the county. She said the signs would damage the viewshed and the council wanted to keep the rural integrity of the county intact.
The commission also received a petition signed by over 200 people in opposition to the signs.
In response, the applicant, John David Pereira, claimed that the Planning Commission did not have jurisdiction to hear an appeal and he was not waiving his right to put up the signs regardless of the decision by the Planning Commission.
Pereira also said he was opposed to the conditions imposed on the special-use permit by staff. Staff had recommended that the signs be reduced in size from 672 to 480 square feet and that the permit only be granted for seven years and then come up for renewal.
In the end, members of the Planning Commission voted against the Shingle Springs signs. Commissioner Alan Tolhurst said he couldn’t support the signs because of their visual impact and because of the objections from the community. The rest of the commissioners indicated that an EIR was needed before the signs could be considered further.
The final motion by the commission was to conceptually deny the special-use permits for the Shingle Springs signs and uphold the appeal filed by Dyana Anderly and Don Ricketts. The commission’s decision is appealable within 10 working days.
In a separate decision, the commission voted to continue consideration of the sign proposed for Cameron Park. The applicant was asked to prepare a visual simulation that would show how the sign would look and to return for a hearing in two weeks.