Park Ridge eyes new sign rules, businesses cry foul
This sign, owned by McLennan Companies in Park Ridge, is not in compliance with the city's sign laws and, if a new ordinance is passed, would need to be removed within two years. | Jennifer Johnson~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:16AM
PARK RIDGE — Back in 1971, the Five Man Electrical Band reminded us that signs, signs are everywhere.
In 2011, Park Ridge Mayor David Schmidt recommended forming a Sign Task Force to review and revamp the city’s rules concerning public signage. Community aesthetics were a significant focus of the review.
Today, a new ordinance with a number of changes and additions has been drafted by the task force and could go before the Park Ridge Planning and Zoning Commission this month for public input.
But already there are concerns that some city businesses could be negatively impacted by the proposed changes.
Under the proposed code, any signs that do not conform to the established rules must be changed to reach compliance. Initially the proposal called for compliance by Jan. 1, 2015, but this has since been changed to Dec. 31, 2016.
Previously, non-conforming signs were considered “grandfathered” and businesses were not required to change them unless a new business opened.
Steve Schimmel, executive vice president for McLennan Companies, 25 N. Northwest Hwy., told the City Council that some of the new requirements in the proposed ordinance, including the elimination of the grandfather clause, would “cause undue expense to business owners and property owners.”
McLennan Companies’ own sign is also non-conforming and would need to be replaced.
“I know pillar signs have to be set back 10 feet from priority line. Ours is only 3 feet from the property line,” Schimmel said. “It’s 30 years old and it’s a steel structure so there would be quite a significant expense for us to move it.”
Sheila Duda, an Uptown business owner who served on the Sign Task Force, agreed that the issue of non-conforming signs could be problematic for businesses and called it a “controversial” part of the ordinance. At the same time, she also said it is necessary to require businesses to update their signs.
“I understand why that recommendation was put forward,” Duda said. “We’ve had non-conforming signs in town for decades and they’re never going to come down. If a business is in town for the next 25, 30 years, their sign isn’t going to change.”
But sign rules have been frustrating for businesses like Dunkin Donuts, 1129 Touhy Ave., and Boyce Family Eye Care, 528 Devon Ave.
Last summer the owner of Dunkin Donuts had tried — and failed — to get the City Council to allow a sign displayed on the existing pole at the southeast corner of Touhy and Greenwood Avenue. The owner’s request was rejected by the city because the pole sign, Duda explained, does not conform to the city’s Zoning Ordinance.
As a result, the middle portion of the sign has remained blank, though a cleaner’s, also located in the small shopping center, continues to advertise on the sign.
The City Council also rejected requests from Boyce Family Eye Care to allow the office’s name to appear in non-conforming box signs on the building. The box signs still exist, but are now blank.
Judy Barclay, who also served on the Sign Task Force, said overall there are very few business signs that remain non-conforming.
“We figured there’s going to about 10 at the very most,” she said.
Schimmel also had concerns about other new provisions that will likely be addressed during a public hearing of the Planning and Zoning Commission which must consider the proposed Sign Ordinance.
The City Council is expected to send the ordinance to the commission once it is reviewed by City Attorney Everette “Buzz” Hill.