Letter: Troubled By Signs in These Times
Electronic signage issue needs more public input.
I want to express my opinion about the alarming practice of nonprofit organizations easily gaining approval for increasing numbers of big, intrusive, electronically-changing signs in Elmhurst. Most recently, I was also dismayed by a nonprofit insisting on such a sign despite neighborhood opposition and the lack of neighborhood input allowed by the nonprofit into the process. For example, I received no notice until months into the approval process. As far as I know, no neighborhood input was solicited, let alone included, until well into the approval process – nearly too late, I fear, to really affect the approval process. The original proposal called for a large sign elevated 2 feet to comprise 75 square feet off the ground with roughly half devoted to electronically lighted messages which can change every 5 seconds. A more recent offer from the nonprofit reportedly reduced the sign’s square footage significantly and limited the changing to every 7 seconds.
Apparent efforts to assuage neighbors after alarm set in included a belated meeting with the nonprofit folks, but the invitations were delivered so late that no neighbors could attend. Additionally, the invitation did not clearly indicate, in my view, the nature of the meeting nor spell out exactly what the nonprofit intended to do. Serious overtures by neighborhood representatives to negotiate a less intrusive size were repeatedly rebuffed, in my view, by the nonprofit insisting upon preconditions, such as who could represent the neighborhood and what position they could advocate. It is hard for me to imagine good faith negotiations occurring under such restrictions.
I can’t really see much difference between the sign the nonprofit wants to put in our neighborhood and the kind of sign a business would propose for a commercial zone. Recently, I have noticed how many business signs, even in commercial zones, are significantly smaller than the sign proposed for our neighborhood. I also can’t see much difference between the political tactics I would see from a business and those employed by the nonprofit to gain approval for their sign. Since the petitioner in my most recent example is a Church, I am especially disappointed. It seems to me that getting such a sign has become much more important than any admonition to "love thy neighbor." Ever heard of love they neighbor? I have! What is new to me is the more recent canon, love thy sign!
Based on this experience, I would warn my Elmhurst neighbors, especially those who do not want their residential neighborhoods blighted by big electrically-changing eyesores, that such a sign is probably headed your way soon. I have heard an estimate that over 30 such residential neighborhood opportunities exist for such unsightly signs in Elmhurst. I believe that such big unsightly signs have no place in Elmhurst neighborhoods. I also believe that ignoring neighborhood input in getting City approval has no place in the conduct of nonprofit or municipal affairs! Be also cautioned that, in my judgment, you cannot count upon your local nonprofit, even if a religious organization, to willingly and sincerely consider the feelings of their neighbors when seeking to bend or break City ordinances.
Bob Hedrick, Elmhurst resident for over 20 years