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updated: 9/8/2017 1:17 PM

Lombard moving ahead with lighted billboards along I-355 despite resident concerns

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An advertising company's request to build two lighted billboards along I-355, despite the objections of 10 nearby residents, has been given preliminary approval by Lombard trustees.

The billboards, which could be placed on the west side of the highway between North Avenue and Roosevelt Road, would create four surfaces for advertising -- two with electronic screens to change displays every 10 seconds and two with static signs promoting one ad at a time.

Residents living near the tollway said they're concerned the signs could create light pollution visible from their homes and the Illinois Prairie Path, serve as a distraction for drivers, hurt the village's image, disrupt wildlife, decrease property values and pave the way for more billboards along the tollway.

"Who's ever said, 'Wow! That's a nice billboard?' " Lombard resident John Behrendt said at a Thursday night village board meeting. "Nobody."

"I don't know why we would even consider this," added resident Austin O'Malley said. "I can't help but think that there is a lot of distraction happening with illuminated billboards."

The billboards would be on the property of the Glenbard Wastewater Authority at 625 W. Glen Oak Road, which has been operating as a sewage treatment plant since at least 1956.

Under a proposed 20-year lease with Lamar Companies of Gary, Indiana, the firm would pay the village $75,000 a year for the right to display the billboards and would agree to take down two existing non-electronic billboards along Roosevelt Road on the village's east side. The lease would not allow advertising for any "adult use" or "in relation to firearms," while it would grant free space on the electronic side of the billboards, as available, to the village and other governments in Lombard to promote events and information.

The billboards also need approval from the Illinois Department of Transportation. Bill Heniff, village community development director, said IDOT requires a property to have been zoned for manufacturing in 1959 in order for billboards to be allowed. He said village records indicate the wastewater treatment plant had manufacturing zoning that year, but later was rezoned to a conservation/recreation designation.

One action the village board could take Sept. 21 to allow the billboards is to rezone the land to industrial, the current designation IDOT requires for sites that can host billboards. It also could amend the sign ordinance and zoning ordinance to create regulations for the potential billboards and grant a conditional use to allow them to be built.

By a series of 5-1 votes, trustees gave preliminary approval to all three actions.

Trustee Dan Whittington, whose District 1 includes the potential billboard location, voted against the measures.

"I understand the financial situation," he said. "But I'm not going to be able to support this."

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