A McHenry County Board committee will decide this week whether to recommend a moratorium on issuing permits for electronic billboards after a growing chorus of requests from municipalities.
In the last couple of weeks, Crystal Lake and Lakewood approved resolutions asking the county to stop issuing permits for such signs until the county's new rules -- expected to be more restrictive under a unified development ordinance -- are put in place.
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A similar resolution is headed for approval by Algonquin leaders this week, while Lake in the Hills officials plan to take up the discussion at their committee-of-the-whole meeting Sept. 11.
Electronic billboards are just not appropriate for areas adjacent to municipalities in the suburbs, Algonquin Village President John Schmitt said.
"When you drive there at night, there is no need for streetlights because they light up the whole community," he said. "It's pretty unfortunate. They are really, really ugly."
Electronic billboards decrease property values, cause sideswipe accidents from distracted drivers, and interfere with the quality of sleep for people who live nearby, said Michelle Rentzsch, director of planning and economic development for Crystal Lake. The city recently annexed a property to prevent such a sign to be placed there.
Tina Hill, chairman of the county board's Planning and Development Committee, said she supports a moratorium. The committee meets Thursday.
"We started hearing from our municipalities about their concerns and we realized that the sign companies came to the realization that the (unified development ordinance) was coming, so we got a rash of applications," Hill said. "They're trying to take advantage of it before we implement a new zoning ordinance."
The ordinance's first draft will be available this week, Hill said. It will be up for review by the planning committee and the zoning board of appeals, followed by public comment. Hill expects the county board to consider adopting the final draft sometime in January.
McHenry County Planning and Development Director Dennis Sandquist said the proposed new rules will include requiring a conditional use permit for all signs, including electronic ones, that advertise businesses elsewhere.
The county has received five applications for electronic signs since late last year, Sandquist said.
The owners of Billboards Inc. in Dyer, Ind., which was recently granted a sign permit for 1203 W. Algonquin Road in unincorporated McHenry County, declined to comment. Cary-based Mixed Media LLC, which wanted to put a sign on the property now annexed by Crystal Lake, did not return a request for comment.