An effort to rewrite part of Petaluma's sign code failed late Monday night as the City Council stalemated in a 3-3 tie.

Regency Partners, developer of the Target-based East Washington Place shopping center, appealed a Planning Commission denial of its request to install freeway-facing signs on the rear of the project's buildings, which will back up to Highway 101.

The City Council, in a 3-2 vote in May, directed city staffers to rewrite the ordinance allowing for such signs as long as they were tasteful. The staff rewrote the ordinance, but the Planning Commission rejected it 6-0 with several objections.

On Monday night, Councilman Gabe Kearney, who sits on the planning board as a liaison and voted against the issue previously, said he still couldn't support changing that part of the ordinance. He said he would be more comfortable reworking the entire city sign code.

He, Teresa Barrett and Tiffany Renee voted to reject the changes, while Mike Healy, Chris Albertson and Mike Harris voted for them.

Regency spokesman Ryan Nickelson said the freeway visibility is "extremely important" to the center's signed tenants – Target, Sprouts, Dick's Sporting Goods, TJ Maxx HomeGoods and Ulta Cosmetics – and potential tenants, including Old Navy and Bev Mo.

"I think we need this to get those tenants," he said.

That argument didn't sway Kearney, Barrett or Renee, who said shoppers will find the stores regardless.

"While I do think those proposed lights and signs are in good taste," Kearney said, "I do have problems with them on the freeway corridor in our city."

Barrett called the requested changes "designer legislation" to benefit "a few favored" projects.

"Any city that values itself doesn't turn its freeway into a billboard," she said.

Healy, Harris and Albertson noted the many exceptions to the prohibition on freeway-facing signs, from the Sheraton hotel on the south to Club One fitness on the north, with the auto mall and outlet mall in between, all with signs directed toward Highway 101.

The issued died on the 3-3 vote. Mayor David Glass recused himself because he owns a significant amount of Target stock.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or