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Committee Says Redeemer Lutheran's Request for Electronic Reader Board Sign Should be Rejected

Attorney says city code does not permit electronic signs in residential neighborhoods.

Following a legal opinion that an electronic billboard is not allowed per village code in a residential area, Elmhurst's Development, Planning and Zoning Committee on Monday recommended denying 's  request to install an electronic sign on its property at 345 S. Kenilworth Ave.

The church is requesting a 7-by-3-foot electronic reader-board sign at the northeast corner of St. Charles Road and Kenilworth.

Redeemer's request was unanimously approved by the Zoning and Planning Commission May 24. But after and many questions from church neighbors, the DPZ Committee sought the opinion of Elmhurst City Attorney Don Storino.

On Monday, Scott Day, the attorney for Redeemer, asked that the committee make its decision based on the application as submitted.

“Apply whatever conditions you deem lawful, reasonable and proper,” he said.

After some debate on whether the sign would be permitted if it did not automatically scroll through different electronic messages, the committee decided that they could not recommend approval of the application at all based on Storino's opinion.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Than Warner referenced discussion about zoning rules for signs in other towns. He said Hinsdale has created spot zoning districts of "institutional buildings" for organizations such as churches.

Committee Chairman and 6th Ward Alderman Steve Morley said a review of Elmhurst's sign codes is on the committee's to-do list.

The committee's recommendation to deny the sign request now goes to the full City Council for a vote.

xnlover August 14, 2012 at 10:45 PM
"No," say Elmhurst residents, "we'd rather our local institutions put up crappy-looking temporary signs that get frayed from being blown by the wind, or that they be forced to keep old, outdated signs with changeable letters for which they no longer have enough letters to spell anything of importance, than to allow them to put up attractive modern signs that will inform people of goings-on at the institution and would look nice for years." Nice job, Elmhurst!
Nathan Ries August 15, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Congrats Elmhurst, on a diligent campaign to save our neighborhoods from distasteful "modernization." I am glad we are committed to following our code and keeping at least some of our residential corridors sacred from electronic sign message bombardment. For those who also object to tattered banners, temporary signs have a period of display dictated by city code as well, fyi. Kudos for people standing up for what they believe, sometimes it all works out in the end.
Mike Worrell August 15, 2012 at 02:55 AM
These types of signs will only become increasingly invasive and gaudy in coming years as full color motion graphics become affordable. Better to draw the line now.
Mark D August 16, 2012 at 03:16 AM
This is a very serious issue. Knowing friends that will have a direct view of the sign and understanding that Redeemer is a valuable asset to Elmhurst, I would seriously encourage the parties to sit down and talk this through knowing a few things. Craig Nelson seems to have an analysis of his confirmed in many respects but one that worries me for the sake of the residents in the area. There were 6 signs approved without authority to do so in the R districts. Additionally, I think the new sign for my own church at IC is a problem because the OIC district does not contain the same language as what you see in the C districts. So you have 7, at least 7, questions presented to staff and the plan commission with planning and legal advice behind them in some cases. Craig mentions that these were all mistakes when I am not so sure, and if Redeemer were a client of mine (they could not be due to the fact that I enjoy the company of the owners of the lovely blue-tarped roof to the south) I would look at this as a matter of arbitrary and selective regulation of speech and, possibly, assembly. If a denial reaches court, the neighbors are hinging everything on the court's ability to accept that the past twelve years, particularly the recent two, are all mistakes.
Mark D August 16, 2012 at 03:18 AM
I find that a very risky proposition and it worries me that a "no vote" in political times before a mayoral election will leave a possibly illegal decision in the courts. The candidates gain, the court rules and they take no blame. However, at the end of the day, the court rules on the sign without conditions that Redeemer and the neighbors might be able to agree to even though both suffer a little. Talking again would be better than leaving it to a court if that is where this is headed. As all of us seem to agree, Elmhurst will have a difficult road ahead if it thinks it can defend its sign ordinance against claims of arbitrariness.
Mark D August 16, 2012 at 03:25 AM
The whole sign issue is just one example of numerous complaints of less than full vetting of the issues in this City. Plan Commission members deserve a little better consistency and form than they have received. It seems that the rush on the new TIF is creating the same concerns for me. Hopefully, those at Redeemer and those against Redeemer on the sign will pay equal amounts of attention to the new TIF because that is money out of our pockets and out of the coffers of the school and park districts. With the full vetting theme over the next two meetings, things should be quite interesting. In the meantime, I hope the neighbors and Redeemer can sit down and find a way to agree. Neither side is to blame here because there is a long record on North York that both can fault.
Mark D August 16, 2012 at 03:41 AM
"...in political times before a mayoral election..." I think Pete will grin a little when he sees this part.
Hates Orange Ribbons August 16, 2012 at 04:45 AM
Mark D...hmmm, why does that name ring a bell? Could you be the same "Mark D" who got his fanny spanked by the city in the Block 300 (Crescent Court) proceedings? 6 times? Can't imagine why you would have an ax to grind with the city. Mark D - leave the legal sign and TIF issues to the serious people who know what they are doing and save your incoherent ramblings for block parties on Harbor Terrace, assuming you get invited.
Steve August 16, 2012 at 01:02 PM
HOR - How come when people comment on this people attack one another instead of discussing their perspective on the issue? Please provide your perspective on this issue.
Mark D August 16, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Not too sure about the six times, HOR, but it's nice to see your attack. The project you raise is one that followed bumbling around the same city hall with the same characters and the same zoning ordinance. Since I mentioned the pros and cons on each side, I am sure that what drew your ad hominem reply was the remark about the new TIF. Take a look at the numbers that need some explanation. Once you do, post your name and address, and I will be happy to stop in. For those who don't know the background, Crescent Court was a project where the city zoning official conveniently read the code to claim zoning compliance when none existed. This reading followed at least two other large projects where such convenient reading and utter ignorance... or a design on his part... allowed zoning violations not so obvious to general Elmhurst until they happened to approach residential areas. Now you have the background for my remarks that people should talk. If you have to rely on a code defense that includes twelve years of mistakes in the First Amendment context of signs and at least a few aldermen who have had private discussions about message boards with staff since about a year ago, the only clear conclusion is that staff bumbled or acted as directed and chose not to fix an issue that was indeed on the radar.
Hates Orange Ribbons August 16, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Steve - honestly, don't care too much about the sign issue. I see both sides to the argument. I understand neighbors concerns. I wouldn't want one in my 'hood either, however, I do think that if Redeemer put such a sign up, it would not destroy the community fabric of Elmhurst. It's 2012, times change. The sign, if erected, would not be a major issue. As for the attack, you can see in Mark D's response, he has issues with city officials. Memory's are long. Mark D - the courts ruled with us, and against you, MANY TIMES. Your interpretation of the code was wrong. You lost, over and over and over. The only bumbling was on your part. How much money did you, and your poor sucker, I mean client, lose? The $10K you got was what, a tenth of the money you put in time and court fees? The new TIF? A no brainer. The 3 current TIFs are all out performing expectations. The 4th one will to, or do you like hotels/waterparks that cater to hookers and drug deals, empty lots, pawn shops and fast food joints? Time will be the judge. I like TIF 4's chances.
Mark D August 16, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Name and address HOR. If you cannot own up to your identity, I will even buy you coffee if you choose to appear outside of your private world. You can wear a mask if you wish. The practical impact of the Crescent Court battle was one that went beyond your financial disclosure, and you forget that public policy and good government are solid enough reasons for a lawsuit, particularly when there is a fear that history will repeat itself. Unfortunately, it has, and the clarity of Craig Nelson's position (a solid one) has serious weakness only because the same zoning official that contributed greatly to the Crescent Court issues has engaged in conduct that now has an ordinance that has a history of known problems that weakens all of our expectations in zoning enforcement. You mention that memories do not fade, but you are wrong.
Mark D August 16, 2012 at 03:25 PM
If Crescent Court remained in Than's memory, he would have recalled that proactive action to address what we call "planning" is better than letting a known issue percolate until neighbors are in deep conflict. The same is true of any alderman currently sitting who had issues with electronic signs but didn't think to clarify things before the Redeemer issue arose. On the TIF, I think your comparison to prior districts is telling of your lack of understanding. The numbers behind the new TIF are substantially different than those that came before it. But you would not know this since you seem to rely on a fraction of the figures, back end performance only, and not the risk going in, the burdens on the remaining owners of the EAV in town and the returns that may or may not occur without an extension. Is a TIF needed in that area? Sure it is. Is the TIF as outlined needed? I don't see it, but maybe you can educate us on why the outlined TIF can be compared in other respects to the prior ones.
Hates Orange Ribbons August 16, 2012 at 04:21 PM
OK, I get it. You dislike Than. I'm sure he has no love for you either. I also won't argue the merits of TIF 4 with you. You are against, I am for. Numbers don't lie, but only liars use numbers. You or I can make the numbers dance anyway we need them to in regards to TIFs. You want to talk EAVs? What has the EAV in that area done 4 of the past 5 years? Answer, gone down. Over the previous 10 years, how much has it grown? .18 percent. There are no burdens on other tax payers, particularly if the EAVs grow. If the EAVs continue to decline, the city (and other taxing bodies) lose nothing. Now, let's talk hard dollars. Do you know how much the city spent in defending against your frivolous lawsuits? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? All for what? NOTHING. Courts (several) agreed with the city. Crescent Court was built. It's a great development that will be a cash cow for the city (and surrounding businesses) for YEARS. Brought in many fine residents. You LOST. Your arguments LOST. How much of a burden did YOU put on that poor sucker who filed suit? How much of a burden did YOU put on the taxpayers of Elmhurst with your frivolous lawsuits? Those are hard dollars that YOU are responsible for. Who am I? I could be one of dozens of people with a serious dislike of you. I'd rather keep you guessing.
Mark D August 16, 2012 at 04:45 PM
HOR You live in a fantasy world. There was one case and the use concerns and zoning challenge on Crescent Court remained viable (the case was settled even though those involved had to do a look-away from the problems that existed and have ensued since then). Remember the semicircular drive that was not a street? Keep an eye out for public works when they care for it. The joy in your chiming in lies in the fact that you raise an issue that riled owners at on the very same street and the City is in an even more difficult position now at the south end of the street. And, yes, I do have an issue with Than. When a City planner resorts to name calling and nearly hitting another planner as his response to substantive input and professional courtesy, I take issue. I also take issue with a lack of foresight on his part that has people scratching their heads and dealing with a problem he knew about. Municipal planners do not ordinarily rely on the good graces of an applicant who decides not to sue or the sway in political positions. Rather, they rely on ordinances that reflect existing conditions and the going-forward posture of the needs of the businesses, institutions and residents in town. The failure to do this has pitted neighbor against neighbor again, and this is occurring on an issue that virtually any other municipality has addressed with clarity. This failure leaves people feeling for the neighbors and Redeemer alike, regardless of how the vote goes on Monday.
Hates Oranges Ribbons August 16, 2012 at 06:25 PM
You didn't answer my questions. How much did you cost your client and how much did you cost city of Elmhurst taxpayers? You are a skilled attorney, clever in your use of distraction. But my questions stand. The same tax payers you want to shield from TIF and Than are the very same ones who had to pay thousands in legal bills because of your frivolous lawsuits. Had you won, or proven a point, than I would agree with you about defending occasional law suits serving the common good. However, in your case, no such point was made, you lost, nothing changed, judges couldn't throw out your arguments and cases fast enough...and the rest of us paid for it. Thanks.
Hates Oranges Ribbons August 16, 2012 at 06:26 PM
PS. I wish I lived in fantasy world. I'm guessing it would be better than the one we live in now. One thing is for sure, there would be no lawyers in that world.

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