Elmhurst residents have until March 8 to give the city their opinion on electronic signs in residential neighborhoods.
A Planning and Zoning Commission public workshop Thursday provided some feedback from residents, but city staff want more—not just opinions on these kinds of signs but also ideas on how the zoning code could be updated to reflect the community's needs and wishes.
“We're at the point where ... (the current code) is not going to work anymore,” Planning and Zoning Administrator Than Werner told the audience.
While Thursday's meeting was not meant to address one specific situation, the discussion was prompted last year when Redeemer Lutheran Church requested a 7-by-3-foot electronic sign on its property at 345 S. Kenilworth Ave.
The Zoning and Planning Commission unanimously approved the request in May, but after much controversy and a legal opinion, in August the city's Development, Planning and Zoning Committee decided to recommend denial of the request. The request has not yet been voted on by the full City Council, and the ZPC is considering changes to the code.
Werner gave residents an overview of how the current code developed, including the recent city attorney's opinion that electronic signs are not included in the definition of what is allowed in residential areas. However, prior to that opinion, these signs had been approved as conditional uses for institutions in residential areas, including signs at Visitation Church and York Commons Park.
In June 2008, language was modified to stipulate that when sign changes are shown at five second intervals or more, they must be displayed in amber text on a black background “without scrolling, flashing, or other movements between text messages.”
Electronic signs are permitted in commercial and industrial areas as long as they meet other code requirements, such as size and height.
Many residents were clear as to what they want the city to do: ban electronic signs in all residential areas. They said they were concerned the signs would proliferate and make the city less attractive. One resident likened the situation to a choice between Elmhurst looking like “Mayberry or Las Vegas.”
Jim Hauser, a resident of St. Charles Road, was concerned about property values and safety.
“There are so many accidents right on my corner,” he said.
But other residents either spoke in favor of the signs or said there was room for compromise.
Scott Stiegemeyer of Cedar Avenue said not all residential districts are the same. Some include frontage on busy streets where electronic signage might be warranted, he said.
Residents are invited to send their suggestions and comments to Than Werner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Signs of Stress: Church Neighbors Say Electronic Sign Would Detract from Character of Neighborhood
- Committee Says Redeemer Lutheran's Request for Electronic Reader Board Sign Should be Rejected