By JOSHUA WOLFSON
Acknowledging disappointment with a large illuminated message sign they approved this spring, Sonora planning commissioners yesterday called for a ban on future signs of that type.
The commission directed city staff members to draft an ordinance prohibiting installation of the controversial signs within city limits.
This move comes four months after the commission voted 3-2 to approve a 34-square-foot changeable message sign in front of the South Washington Street office of Clarke Broadcasting, home of KVML, KZSQ and KKBN radio stations.
Changeable message signs threaten the historic character of Sonora, said Commissioner Dean Zaharias.
"I think they are inappropriate," he said.
Zaharias and Commissioner Dwain McDonald voted in May against the Clarke sign.
"The thing is an abomination," Zaharias said. "I think it is an embarrassment to downtown Sonora."
Without an ordinance, changeable message signs could be installed without any say from the commission, said Chairman Clark Segerstrom, who voted for the Clarke sign.
The city planners only took up the Clarke sign because it was 4 square feet larger than city law allows, and therefore required that the commission grant a variance an exception to the law.
Commissioner Tom Holloway, who cast the the swing vote that allowed the Clarke sign, said he is disappointed with how it turned out.
"I don't like how it looks," he said. "I will eat a little crow."
Several city residents also called for a ban on such business signs.
"All you see now is a big red blur," Sonora resident and former city councilman Jim Hildreth said of the Clarke sign. "I don't think it is something we want."
Sharon Marovich, chairwoman of the Tuolumne Heritage Committee, agreed.
"The issue then is the same now: Something like that doesn't belong in Sonora," she told the commission.