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posted: 2/11/2014 5:30 AM

Glen Ellyn adopts new sign code

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Glen Ellyn approved an overhaul to the village's sign code at Monday's board meeting -- its first update since the original code was written in 1993.

Village officials hope the new code will better align with the needs of the community's businesses, be easier to use, address changes in the sign industry and reduce the number of variation requests the village receives. The current code established some 20 years ago has had only a handful of amendments since.

"The existing regulations are out of date," Glen Ellyn's Director of Planning and Development Staci Hulseberg said at a recent meeting. "It is a little bit confusing."

Amendments include allowing two signs on an interior lot and three on a corner lot, changing permitted sign sizes and expanding the list of exempt signs.

A comprehensive update was presented by Hulseberg to the board at its Jan. 27 meeting with a summary of the changes recommended by the Architectural Review Commission, which reviewed an update to the code at over six meetings. The board asked for additional information about the number of nonconforming signs as a result of major changes to the code, and how the proposed standards would affect the required variations for recent developments.

Further discussion was held Monday on a number of items within the revised sign code.

•The board agreed to keep in the sign code a provision prohibiting free-standing signs in the downtown's retail core, which would affect roughly five businesses in that area.

•The board amended the new sign code to take out a regulation saying "no internal, illuminated" or backlit signs would be allowed in the downtown's retail core. If it had been adopted, this rule would have affected some 10 businesses, including Einstein's and Starbucks. A concern had been raised by the ARC about maintaining the historical character of the downtown area.

"It's restrictive. I think we want to give businesses an opportunity to be successful," Village President Alex Demos said. "We want to recognize our history, but not live in it."

•The board took out a provision prohibiting "illuminated, electronic, neon, video or television window signs villagewide" which would have affected close to 120 businesses.

•The board took out a regulation prohibiting internally-illuminated wall-mounted box signs.

•The board kept in a regulation prohibiting pole signs. Staff members recommend that instead monument signs be constructed when businesses move in.

"We've found that pole signs restrict visibility," said Hulseberg, noting that businesses are "welcome to apply for a variation."

The board also agreed to a significant change in the cycling of message boards from the old rule -- 12 hours -- to allowing cycling on message boards every 15 seconds. Municipal signs are exempt from the code, but must comply with electronic message board regulations.

Under the new code, current signs will be grandfathered in and will only have to be changed to meet new regulations if a business moves in or if the sign is later modified, according to village officials.

The amended sign code will be reviewed in one year, and any appropriate amendments will be considered.

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