SouthTowne Crossing shopping center has appealed a decision by the Reno City Planning Commission to deny it a special use permit for an oversized freestanding sign at I-580 and Damonte Ranch Parkway.
Tenants told the Reno City Council on Wednesday that freeway motorists miss the 51.4-acre mini-mall anchored by Walmart and Kohl’s. It’s one of the first major exits into Reno traveling north from Carson City and one of the last for those going south.
“A lot of South Reno comes to our center and we love it there,” said Adam Castleman of Jüs, which opened at Southtowne 4 years ago. “It’s impossible to see us off the freeway. Once you see we exist, you’re already past us.”
Jay Kenny, who opened DoughBoy Donuts in the shopping center 8 years ago, agreed. He cited a recent economic impact analysis by Ekay Economic Consultants and the Nevada Center for Regional Studies that showed business at SouthTowne could increase 10 to 20 percent with signage.
“It’s expensive to market and advertise and every little thing helps,” Kenny said.
The City Council postponed a vote on whether to affirm, modify or reverse the denial of the April decision by planning commissioners at the request of the shopping center’s developer who couldn’t be at Wednesday’s meeting.
Reasons cited for planning commission opposition were protection of scenic views, the sign being almost twice as tall and two times as big as code allows, incompatibility with the surrounding area, inability to make hardship findings, concern with establishing a precedent for allowing other nonconforming signs, other options for freeway advertising using existing billboards and Nevada Department of Transportation signs, and appropriateness of existing sign code standards.
SouthTowne Crossing is seeking to increase its allowable freestanding sign height from about 35 feet to about 60 feet tall (from ±250 to ±511 square feet in total size).
Kenneth Krater, who represents SouthTowne, wrote a letter to council members that said a freeway identification sign that meets existing code would not allow for proper visibility for safe reading at 70 miles per hour. Larger signs are need to convey information to motorists without causing distractions, he said.
“If this variance is not approved, northbound motorists might continue north to Three Nations Plaza, located at I-580 and Glendale Avenue (who pay no property taxes), and southbound motorists could continue to North Carson Crossing that has a 65-foot high freeway pylon sign in Carson City,” wrote Krater, referring to the nearest Walmart locations along the freeway. Three Nations is on tribal land.
“Please note that none of SouthTowne’s existing signs are visible from the freeway that carries far more traffic than any of the other street frontages for SouthTowne. This results in a loss of revenue for the city of Reno,” Krater added.