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COURSEY: Let's not become Anytown, USA

Dick, you're not in Kansas any more.

Or Pennsylvania, Idaho, Florida or New York.

This is Santa Rosa, and we do things a little differently around here. Sometimes.

That was the word given this week to Dick's Sporting Goods by the Santa Rosa Design Review Board. Board members took a look at plans for a new Dick's store at Coddingtown, and said a huge sign proposed over the entryway won't fly under the city's design rules.

But that's how Dick's always does it, company representatives argued. “They want you to be able to go anywhere in the country and say 'That's a Dick's.'”

Santa Rosa, though, isn't just anywhere.

You might argue otherwise, should you venture down Santa Rosa Avenue past the Best Buy and Target and Michael's and other chain stores that would look just as comfortable in Boise or Tempe or Oklahoma City. We can do cookie-cutter as well as the next guy.

But there are some rules. And, according to Kevin McCallum's story this morning, the giant sign on Dick's proposed 50,000-square-foot store on Cleveland Avenue would violate the one that says sign structures can't rise above a building's parapet.

“I think it's there to be a billboard,” said board Chairman Doug Hilberman.

“I think the scale is too big. It's too loud,” said board member Warren Hedgpeth.

Kirstie Moore, development director at Codding Enterprises, said the company tried to convince Dick's to tone down the signage, but the retailer was adamant about following its prototype. “That is their brand,” Moore said.

No decision was made this week, but it appears that if Dick's doesn't get its way with the Design Review Board, it may be willing to take the question to the City Council, where we often hear issues such as this framed as a regulation-vs-jobs debate.

That's a false choice. Santa Rosa is an attractive place to live, work and do business not because it's so much like Chino or Orem or Colorado Springs, but because it is not.

Toning down the size of a sign may be a small way to hang on to what we've got. But a city doesn't lose its character overnight. It lets it slip away, in bits and pieces, until its residents wake up one day and think they're in Modesto.

And yes, Dick's has a store there, too.

(Chris Coursey's blog offers a community commentary and forum, from issues of the day to the ingredients of life in Sonoma County.)

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