Wednesday, July 15, 2015

• Planning Commission Meeting July 2015

Key on the agenda was the freeway sign at the Bundy Canyon ARCO. It seems that they raised the height of their sign from 45 feet to 61 feet without getting the city's approval first. In 2013 they had applied for a variance but later withdrew the application.

Here's what happened in a nutshell.

ARCO found that there had been structural damage to the sign's pole, from bee activity, and chose to repair it... which was a prudent move. Thing is, when they put up the new pole, they raised the height by 16 feet without getting the proper variance from the city. Now they are having to say, "I'm sorry" after the fact.

I still haven't heard what the honey tasted like.
I'm not big on needlessly punitive actions, and as it turns out, the applicant said all the right things with the right demeanor. It's just that we can't set a bad precedent of businesses doing whatever they feel like, then coming back and saying Oops, my bad... I'm sorry without incurring a fine of some type.

Still, I think their shortsightedness will cost them more (in lost sales) than any fines.

"How's that?" you ask?

Well, by my calculations, the only people that use a gas station freeway sign are those that don't already know the gas station is there: out-of-towners.

The locals don't need a tall sign to let them know the station is there... they already know it.

A freeway sign is for one purpose only: To attract people that are not from the area, alerting them to a gas station that is up ahead. The taller the sign, the better. Had they applied the proper way, perhaps they could have raised it to the same height as the Shell Station on the east side of the freeway which is at 71 feet tall.

Wildomar doesn't have a ton of sales tax coming in, and gas stations bring in a big portion of what we do get. It would have been to our advantage to encourage ARCO to raise the sign to at least the 71 foot mark.

In the graphic I made you can see the comparative heights of the sign. The picture was taken from Canyon Dr.

Then again, if you're looking for an ARCO station (which I do) and you were to miss the one going south at Bundy Canyon, you'd get another shot at one, and I think a nicer set up too, just a couple of miles down the freeway at Clinton Keith. Since they are both owned by the same people, and the same sales tax would be coming to the city, perhaps it's all a moot point.

Now the sign can be clearly seen from the other side of the freeway.

As you drive west on Bundy Canyon, the sign is now visible from the east side of the freeway. If you're traveling north on the 15 you're still likely to only see it after you've driven past the off ramp.

On my list of questions I had prepared, I wanted to know who ratted them out. Who dropped the dime on ARCO?

As it turns out Wildomar Planning Director Matt Bassi is very astute, and he saw the difference in the height himself, as he's been making that drive for the last five years and is paid to be observant.

PROJECT ANALYSIS (from the agenda packet)

Variance Request: 

While the Arco owner increased the height of sign to 61 feet illegally, the fact remains that, at the original approved height of 45 feet, the sign could not be seen from the southbound I-15 freeway lanes before passing the Bundy Canyon off-ramp. The primary reason the sign could not be seen is due to an approximate 40-foot grade difference between freeway and the Arco site. In addition, there is a 8 to 10-foot tall dirt berm along the west side of the freeway extending northwards from the Bundy Canyon off-ramp.

It is staff’s opinion, that this situation results in a unique topographical feature/constraint that supports the need for a taller freeway sign at this specific location. This conclusion was verified by a balloon test done with the original variance application that determined the optimal/minimum height to see the freeway sign prior to the Bundy Canyon off-ramp was 61 feet (refer to Figure 8 on the following page). 

Further, it is staff’s opinion that the variance will not grant a special privilege to Arco, nor will it be detrimental to the health, safety or general welfare of the community. The specific findings in support of the variance in outlined below.

The consensus of the commission seemed to be that, if anything, the sign should have gone higher if they'd only have not put the cart before the horse.

The applicant made it clear that the reason they didn't pursue the previous variance was that it was going to be an additional $175K to install a new and redesigned sign, in addition to the other money they'd spent on a remodel.

Further, that his sign maintenance team had taken it upon themselves, unbeknownst to the brass at ARCO, to extend the pole based on previous conversations, when they'd discovered it needed to be replaced.

From what I could gather, they can expect to pay twice the regular permitting fee, and also pay for a special inspection, for the rash exuberance of the maintenance team.

After a 4-0 vote ARCO agreed to fully comply within thirty days.

•      •       

Westley: Give us the gate key.
Yellin: I have no gate key.
Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, tear his arms off.
Yellin: Oh, you mean this gate key.
—A Princess Bride

Wildomar Rap reminds you to set your clocks back one hour. Not now silly, that isn't until Sunday, November 1st.


  1. I Don't get why time & money is being wasted here. It's a sign! It's not bothering any one! Pay the permit fee & move on for the love of....! I mean come on! There are more important things to worry about in the city then a stupid sign that just a bit higher then it was originally.

    1. That is what is going on, but they still have to go through the basic process.

  2. I noticed recently I could see it better from my property! Didn't know why. But I agree, this is hardly a major issue. A mistake was made on their part, they have been here for years and years, certainly that should buy them a little goodwill. I get rules are rules but I agree with the person above, especially since they didn't build it as high as they "should" have??. sheila

    1. True, it isn't a big issue, but it had to go through the process just the same and that's why it ended up in a blog. It was a mix up on the part of the maintenance crew and no one wanted to make more of this than necessary.

  3. Now that the giant sucking sound has quieted we wait for the smack. Once again Wildomar whips out the rubber stamp.
    This franchiser to a giant corporation has once again blamed the lack of compliance on the little guy. This sign guy, a sole proprietor, is claimed to have used his own initiative and raised the sign, knowing he was going to get paid?.
    Had not the planning director coming to work from out of town not noticed the sign being worked on, the increased height of this phallic symbol to the past would have gone unnoticed possibly for years. Can’t wait for the 100 foot purple gorilla to appear in town.
    A symbol to the past as in this day and age of smart phones, gps and cars that warn a person a hundred miles before they run out of gas in an area where there is this companies product available every 5 miles. With the decrease in gas tax for the next couple of years we wouldn’t want to lose out on the tax received from package sales.
    These monstrosities to a by-gone era, which several planning commissioners think should be higher, are a blight on an otherwise unblemished view of the surrounding beauty of the valley as seen from a ribbon of concrete.
    Kenny Mayes

    1. "This sign guy, a sole proprietor, is claimed to have used his own initiative and raised the sign, knowing he was going to get paid?"

      A fair observation.

  4. Phallic symbol to the past? Get real Kenny, it's a sign. People still use them, is that okay with you? A mistake happened. Now pull your shirt down and you and Miss Miller go write a song together.


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