Businesses in downtown Arlington Heights soon will be able to market their restaurants and shops with sandwich board signs on the sidewalk or hanging signs, under measures approved by the village board Monday.
Village officials said the changes came after months of studying the issue, which originally was brought up by downtown business owners unhappy with Arlington Heights' prohibition on sidewalk signs. Several businesses had already been displaying such signs, violating village code, said Charles Perkins, director of planning and community development.
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Business owners met with village officials, the chamber of commerce and the design commission in October and February to go over the proposed guidelines, which were approved Monday.
Perkins said officials expect signs to look professional, be "tastefully designed" and not create a tripping hazard on the sidewalk. Each business will be allowed one sandwich board side per street frontage and one removable hanging sign.
While businesses will be allowed a permit for both signs, only one sidewalk sign or one hanging sign may be displayed at a time. Both must be taken inside during inclement weather or when the business is closed.
Sandwich board signs could advertise deals or specials of the day while a removable hanging sign could be a colorful flag announcing that the store is open, Perkins said.
"I think this is a great example of government responding to concerns from the people that we serve," Mayor Tom Hayes said. "It may have taken a little longer than some had hoped, but it resulted in a very well-thought out product, and it's something that is going to be very beneficial to our businesses and our town in general."
Businesses will be required to apply for a one-time permit to keep track of compliance and liability issues since the signs will be placed along public streets. Permits will be turned around to requesters in one business day.
Several trustees said they hoped the village would not charge a permit fee. Perkins said details of the fee are still being worked out, but if it exists, it will be nominal.
Right now the sign code variations only apply to the downtown corridor, but several trustees said they would like to see the changes expanded.
"I don't see why we aren't liberalizing this on a more fast-paced approach for all the businesses in our community," said Trustee Joe Farwell. "Downtown is more pedestrian-oriented, but if you look at each shopping center as a mini-pedestrian area, it makes sense."
Village officials said they would study how the process works in the downtown before expanding it.
"I would like to see this expanded as quickly as possible," Farwell said. "These retail facilities really require signage for their marketing to get people in the door. I don't know why we're waiting."
Jim Platt, business development director with the chamber of commerce, said the change to the sign code is a small, but important signal to the business community.
"The business community is starting to see that there is a genuine effort from the board and that's starting to resonate with how they are feeling overall about being in town," Platt said. "They are starting to feel that they are getting a voice, and that's something that has been sorely needed "