County approves 'Hillbillies' sign

"Beverly Hillbillies" star Max Baer Jr. celebrated his 71st birthday on a high note.

After 18 months, Douglas County commissioners approved a sign with modifications to advertise the casino Baer plans fashioned after the popular television show of the 1960s.

Commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday to approve the sign southeast of the intersection of Topsy Lane and Highway 395.

"I'm getting older by the minute," Baer said after a commissioner wished him a happy birthday.

Commissioners passed 4-1 a motion introduced by Nancy McDermid that kept the height at 90 feet, but reduced the sign area portion by about 30 percent.

The 534-square foot readerboard was limited to 375 square feet, about 70 percent of the original request, and the rest of the signage was limited proportionally.

The rest of the signage, 344 square feet, when reduced by the same percentage, is limited to 242 square feet. The total sign area is 617 square feet. Baer had requested 878 square feet.

Commissioners took up the sign issue about 9 p.m. with few spectators in the audience.

The only opposition came from Jim Markwardt, representing Shepherd of the Sierra church on the other side of the highway.

"As part of our project, we intend to have a cross. Our new building is 30 feet high and the cross is 30 feet. Is it more important to have signs prominently displayed for casinos and shopping centers than schools, churches and so forth?

"If you allow the variance, we'll be the first down here, hat in hand, asking for a 90-foot cross," he said.

Before the vote was taken, Commisisoner Doug Johnson urged a compromise.

"I still have problems with the readerboard. Try a compromise to get this done. I am tired of doing this over and over. I am absolutely against negotiating things at these meetings," Johnson said.

Commissioners granted the variance, finding that the sign was 220 feet off the highway and 1,000 feet from the proposed casino.

Commissioner Kelly Kite thanked project director Don Smits for taking him to the site so he could see the grading issues behind the request for the height variance.

"Thank you for taking me up there and showing me the hole," Kite said. "Until you see the pile of dirt, you have no idea what you're dealing with."

In 2007, planning commissioners approved a zoning change for the multi-million dollar, 270,000-square-foot hotel/casino in north Douglas County; but with their approval came the denial of a variance for a 200-foot oil derrick with three sign faces and two animated reader boards.

That denial was appealed to the county commission, who rejected a 143-foot version of the oil derrick in January.

The second round involved a 109-foot tulip-shaped sign reminiscent of the Beverly Hills signs in Los Angeles. Planning commissioners nixed that sign in May, and the county commission upheld their decision in July.

The third proposal returned to the oil derrick design, a 90-foot version of the structure with two sign faces instead of three.

Conditions of the approval include obtaining approval from design review before applying for building permit from community development; the readerboard must list three tenants; any proposed modifications are subject to review by community development.

Sign construction cannot begin before a building permit has been issued for the Beverly Hillbillies Mansion and Casino.

Commissioners voted 4-1 with Dave Brady dissenting.


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