Could Franks for the Memories prompt changes to Mundelein's sign ordinance?
A public discussion of Mundelein's five-year-old commercial sign ordinance set for Monday night could lead to the controversial rules being changed.
That would suit Trustee Dawn Abernathy, who's led the push to amend the ordinance so it's more palatable for business owners.
"It's putting an undue financial burden on our businesses," she said.
Mundelein trustees approved the ordinance in April 2015 to improve the attractiveness of the town and reduce safety hazards caused by what officials called the "indiscriminate" use and placement of signs.
The regulations ban several types of signs, including those on poles or those using cabinet-style displays, letter boards, strobe lights or floodlights.
Officials gave business owners five years to change nonconforming signs or request exemptions. The deadline is next month.
When officials surveyed the community before the board adopted the sign rules, 243 signs didn't meet the ordinance's requirements, Village Administrator John Lobaito said. That number has since been reduced to 155.
Some business owners received village grants to help pay for the work. About 30 grants totaling about $82,000 have been issued for sign replacements, Lobaito said. Overall, the projects cost about $230,000.
Lobaito estimated about 80% of the village's roughly 800 businesses are in compliance with the rules.
Public criticism of the ordinance was minimal until December, when the board voted not to allow the popular Franks for the Memories restaurant to keep the eye-catching pole sign that's stood outside its Hawley Street building for more than 30 years.
The restaurant's owners argued the tall, yellow sign should be exempted from the rules because it has historical value and has become an important feature of the restaurant. Support for Franks has swelled on social media and among customers.
"This is a small business and we all know how difficult it is to stay profitable in this business," said Bharat Naik, who drives up from Carol Stream for Franks' hot wings. "Village requirements such as (no) pole signs are burdensome ... and the village should not impose such requirements."
The ordinance will be discussed during a special committee-of-the-whole meeting set for 6 p.m. Monday at village hall, 300 Plaza Circle. The meeting will be broadcast live on the village's website, mundelein.org.
Staffers will give a presentation that provides background on the ordinance, Lobaito said. They'll also suggest some elements that could be changed, depending on the desires of the trustees.
For example, the trustees will be asked if existing businesses should be allowed to keep nonconforming signs until significant architectural changes to the businesses are made, he said.
Abernathy supports such a change -- especially because the grant fund isn't flush enough to support the dozens of businesses that still need to replace signs.
"There is no money left in the fund," she said. "The money for the (fiscal) year has been spent."
Lobaito said he hopes to get consensus from the trustees about how to proceed.