Mundelein businesses face fines under sweeping new sign rules
Many Mundelein merchants may have to change the signs on their facades, windows or properties within five years or face fines under sweeping new rules.
Several types of signs have been banned outright under the regulations, including those on poles and those that use strobe lights or floodlights.
Message boards with changeable text are forbidden now, too -- although gas stations, places of worship and businesses with marquees are exempt.
The regulations were approved by the village board Monday after nearly two years of discussions. They're designed to improve the look of the community, Mayor Steve Lentz said.
"It should have a profound and positive impact on our community's appearance," Lentz told the Daily Herald on Tuesday.
All types of signs are covered in one way or another. That includes menu boards, marquees, tall monuments for shopping centers, inflatables. roof signs and even athletic scoreboards.
The guidelines, which total 48 pages, apply to existing businesses and new businesses. Lentz estimated about 20 percent of the commercial signs in Mundelein will need to be replaced.
A village grant program can help defray the cost, he said.
Under the rules, nearly all new signs will require a permit before they can be erected. Exceptions include building directories, flags, memorial plaques, parking lot information signs and permanent window signs.
For new and old signs, the rules increase the allowable sizes, create more time for temporary signs and allow more types of temporary signs than previous rules, among other changes, Village Administrator John Lobaito said.
The rules also ban the use of neon or LED lights around windows and doors, require the removal of abandoned sign structures and forbid any signs that could be considered a traffic hazard because they look like official traffic signs. That would include any sign that could be confused with a traffic signal "because of its position, shape or color."
Signs that use words including "stop," "look," "danger," "caution" and other safety-related words also are banned.
Penalties include fines of unspecified amounts, the revocation of sign permits and the forcible removal of signs that don't follow the rules.
Entrepreneurs who believe the rules create hardships can apply for variances that could let them skirt the regulations, officials said.
The rules have supporters and detractors.
Real estate agent and local resident Dee Cox said she thinks the rules will improve the town's aesthetics. She also said the policies could help attract new businesses to the downtown area, which has some high-profile vacancies.
"Mundelein needs to attract new businesses, and to do that you need to be proactive," Cox said. "They have to start somewhere."
Conversely, representatives of Bill's Pizza & Pub have opposed the rules, saying the large, iconic sign outside the restaurant at 624 S. Lake St. would have to be removed.
But it's the pole the sign stands on, not the decades-old neon sign itself, that's a problem, Trustee Dawn Abernathy said.
"They can relocate the sign to the building or have it on a monument sign that conforms to the code," Abernathy said.
Lentz suggested the restaurant's owners apply for a variance "like any other business would have to do" if they want to keep the sign as it is now.
The owners couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
Trustee Holly Kim said she favored continuing to allow pole signs but understood the "diplomatic process" that led to the rules.
That process included public meetings, an online survey, public presentations, an email campaign and other efforts to encourage community participation.
"This has been worked on with public feedback," Kim said.