Ald. Smith Baying At The Moon Over Signs


We received an undated “Press Release” from Ald. Jim Smith (3rd) concerning his plan for “raising issues and offering amendments” at the January 28th City Council Committee of the Whole meeting concerning the City’s sign ordinance.

Unfortunately, we didn’t receive it until days after that meeting.

Which is probably okay, because we had a hard time making much sense out of what Smith is complaining about – other than Mayor Dave Schmidt for creating a Sign Task Force that, according to Smith, Schmidt “packed…with proponents of rigorous regulation” who have proposed amendments to the Zoning Code that will create “a more business-hostile environment.”

Who are these business-hostile task force folks? 

Judy Barclay of the Historic Preservation Commission.  Mark Dejardins, who reportedly operates a sign business.  Sheila Duda of the Tea Lula tea shop.  Kathie Hahn of the Park Ridge Park District.  Brian Kidd of the City’s Appearance Commission.  Alfredo Marr of the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission.  local real estate agent Joan Sandrik.  Resident Paul Sheehan.  And Gary Zimmerman, of the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

Frankly, we aren’t aware of any facts that would suggest these folks are “anti-business.”  And Smith doesn’t explain how they are, or how he knows it.

Whether the City’s sign ordinance needs clarification, amendment, or a complete rewrite is unclear to us.  Generally speaking, we don’t find any of the business signs around town offensive.  But the Sign Task Force was created to assess that situation and, as best as we can tell, it has done its job.

Is every one of the recommendations the Task Force has come up with optimal?  Probably not.  But do the proposed amendments make the Zoning Code hostile to businesses with signage? 

As best as we can tell from his Press Release, they may require “a number of new signs even though the original ones are perfectly serviceable for their intended purpose.”  But the only example he offers is the Dunkin’ Donuts at Touhy and Greenwood. 

That’s not a bad example, mind you, because it does illustrate the odd-to-goofy situation (if Smith is correct) where a non-compliant, free-standing sign is permitted to advertise the dry cleaners next to DD but cannot also advertise DD – because the dry cleaners’ sign is grandfathered in, while the newer DD does not enjoy the same status and exception to the rule.

Smitty’s real beef, however, seems to be not the “grandfathering” exception that currently creates this anomaly, but the proposed elimination of that exception by these proposed amendments, which would require replacement of the entire sign by January 1, 2015 with one that conforms to the ordinance.

In recent months, Smith has demonstrated an amazing ability to propose things that don’t even get a second from the rest of the Council.  That occurred at the January 28th meeting, when he moved to delete Section 14.18 of the revised sign ordinance – the section that sets a January 1, 2015 deadline for non-conforming signs to be brought into compliance – and failed to get a second.   

That two-year amortization period has been acknowledged by City Attorney Everette “Buzz” Hill as being “aggressive,” so a Council debate on the length of that amortization period would have made sense.

Had Smitty been concerned with actually legislating rather than political grandstanding, he could have moved to expand the compliance window to 3, 4 or even 5 years.  Or he could have sought a special compliance window for those businesses who installed a new sign within the past 1 or 2 years, so that they could recoup more of their recent sign investment made without any expectation of a change in the ordinance.  Either one would have triggered the kind of debate these issues deserve.

Instead, he chose to make his DOA motion. 

But only after issuing his Press Release, and baying at the moon.

To read or post comments, click on title.

18 comments so far

Smith probably means well but he is a whack job and an embarrassment to the City. The sign where Johnny’s used to be is an unkempt, rusty, giant eyesore and should not be grandfathered for Dunkin’ Donuts, much as we love them. Legislation Smith decries can’t single out an individual situation (duh) so across-the-board improvements must be required for fairness. Everybody, look at the list of folks on the sign committee — Uber-preservationist Judy Barclay could singlehandedly hold off the Taliban and Type A business leader Shelia Duda is no shrinking violet, either — and realize that if this group is happy with signage requirements being changed, there’s nada to fret about.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We think Smitty’s sometimes incongruous views of City matters might be caused by sunspot activity, but that’s just a theory at this time.

The signage laws are very antiquated.

Besides the silliness of the laws described above, the Library, the City, the Park District, and the schools are not allowed to have electronic signs in Park Ridge.

So individuals are paid to change the lettering on the signs as opposed to have tasteful electonic signs on public property. Each entity could save man hours for this purpose if the City would update their ordinances.

I am not in favor of every business having neon signs, but public entities should be allow to have them. Especially if they turned them off from 7pm to 7am.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Which would explain why the Sign Task Force was formed.

What about the visual eyesores being created by the new Cennential Water park?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sorry, but we’re more concerned with the multi-millions of taxpayer dollars that are being squandered on those “visual eyesores.”

Friends of the Park:

Four words for ya.


“Friends of the Park?” should be “Friends of the Free Side Lawn for Me and My Half-Dozen Neighbors”

Charismatic powers?!?!?!?!!? That made my weekend!!

2-7-13 9:32AM:

You are too freakin funny!!!!! While you are looking at that “unkempt, rusty, giant eyesore”, may I suggest you turn around and look at the Kentucky Fried Chicken building painted the colors of the Italian flag!!! Now look to your right at the Thortons sign or to your left at the monster Shell signm or the BP sign.

I have a news flash for ya. Park Ridge is not Lake Forest and Touhy is not Sheridan Rd.

Apparently you feel that a sign that is 2/3 empty with the rest for the dry cleaner is somehow more asthetically appealing that including the DD sign?!?!

@9:10 “Friends of the Park?” should be “Friends of the Free Side Lawn for Me and My Half-Dozen Neighbors”

Please. This selfish attitude of “if it doesn’t benefit me immediately and personally I will stubbornly oppose it” is really getting old.

A park will benefit us all, in tangible and intangible ways. It’s about community and leaving a legacy for the future that contains more than just McMansions and strip malls. Sad that people just don’t get that. (And no, I’m not affiliated with the PRPD in any way, nor do I live adjacent to the Youth Campus.)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Most supporters of both the new Centennial Pool and the Youth Campus acquisition sound like the reverse side of that same counterfeit coin: “If it benefits me immediately and personally, I will stubbornly support it.”

If turning the Youth Campus into a park was “about community” and “leaving a legacy,” why didn’t the Park District care enough about “community” and “legacy” to condemn that land and turn it into a park years ago? Were a bunch of delinquents constantly causing trouble and repeated police calls that big a benefit to the “community”? And if the “community” is so opposed to “McMansions and strip malls,” why isn’t anybody trying to amend the Zoning Code to reduce or eliminate those vile structures?

and if the community is soooooo concerned about taxes that they are willing to cut funding to community groups with hardly a peep (we cannot afford that!!!!) how can they be willing to choose to raise their own taxes for a luxury like park land???

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ll find out on April 9 whether they will or won’t.

“Were a bunch of delinquents constantly causing trouble and repeated police calls that big a benefit to the “community”?”

If that doesn’t smack of intolerance I don’t know what does. So the City should have condemned a social services agency simply because its residents were deemed undesirable by the comparatively well heeled PR residents?

I was fine with The Youth Campus. It had a long history of serving those less fortunate. But for whatever reason(s) it did close its doors. Somehow replacing it with a park feels more appropriate than replacing it with more houses we just don’t need.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are proudly intolerant of chronic and recidivistic criminal behavior in Park Ridge, especially when it constantly requires police intervention.

But it should have been condemned by the Park District not because it was a nuisance, but because it apparently is “about community and leaving a legacy for the future” – virtues that apparently never mattered one bit to the Park District until the Youth Campus closed down and wanted to sell the land.

But we’ll trust the voters to decide. And we know Mel Thillens and his crew will jump through every hoop to help them decide.

I would expect to see business signage along a major business throughfare. They may be a little outlandish, but that’s why I choose not to live along Touhy. The park is a different matter. I have always been in favor of replacing Centennial pools. So the NIMBY label does not apply. The water park footprint does not belong in the middle of a residential area.

Dear Anon. yesterday at 3:35 pm, re: your statement “Somehow replacing it with a park feels more appropriate than replacing it with more houses we just don’t need.”

Well, thanks very much for being the one-person community planning decider!

What’s missing from the Youth Campus debate are more fact-based arguments. The park district has a couple of factoids, but backed up with very little detail and justification.

Meanwhile, we have too many touchy-feely statements like the one quoted above. It’s thinking like this that has raised property taxes by double-digits in Park Ridge, even as property values fall.

There is ample proof that the Youth Campus will raise property taxes. There is no proof it will raise property values, except maybe for people who were living next to it when it was a campus for youth.

EDITOR’S NOTE: C’mon, FWT, why let a few factoids, or a lack thereof, spoil a great story about the “community” and the “legacy” that had been totally ignored by the Park District for decades, and that would have continued to be ignored if the Youth Campus didn’t shut down?

Public Watchdog, I don’t agree that the park board should have shut down the youth campus in years past. Their operations were legal and no government body should have pressured them to sell their land.

Yes, I understand you’re being sarcastic, i.e., “well if they’re so concerned about community, legacy for future, etc., why didn’t they act before?” The answer is, the land wasn’t available.

The land is now available, and even though Our Parks Legacy seems to use that fact as their main rationale for buying the Youth Campus, it doesn’t mean we should vote for it on April 9th.

The park district has their hands full managing the property they already have.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We agree about the PRRPD having its hands full already.

But if a unit of government could only acquire land when it becomes “available,” there would be no legal right to condemn (by “eminent domain”) private property for a public purpose, such as preserving “community” and “legacy” – assuming those explanations were not just marketing canards.

“Well, thanks very much for being the one-person community planning decider!”

Give me a break. So I’m not allowed to express my opinion unless it aligns with yours? And “touchy-feely” sentiment isn’t allowed even though as humans we tend to feel emotions?

Just because I may have strong emotions about the issue doesn’t mean I don’t take facts into consideration. And I personally think the facts support the Park District’s decision to pursue acquisition of the property.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And what specific “facts” are those?


Did you not read my post at 12:26PM 2-10-13??

So, you lecture the author of this blog about about social service issues!?! Where have you been??

You live in a city that already cut funding to “social service agencies”. Your city CUT funding to CoC, meals on wheels etc to save our tax dollars

Meanwhile, you want to RAISE our taxes, not for the social service agencies who were cut from the budget, but rather to purchase the luxury of additional park land.

You many not agree with PD. I do not completely agree with his position. But at least he (unlike you) is consistent

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s in large part a function of the policy and practical differences between City government and Park District government.

2/10/13-9:34 am-Those that oppose the current financially foolish actions of the PRPD do not oppose them because out of selfishness but because they are financially foolish.

Approving the first phase at $7,300,000 of an estimated $10,500,000 waterpark-that can be used at most 3 months of the year weather permitting-is foolish. As has been stated numerous times on this blog, the taxpayers of PR have voted at least 3 times before NO to a waterpark at the Centennial location. The PRPD chose an end around to get this waterpark through instead of getting approval from the taxpayers through a referendum. Foolish and irresponsible.

The Youth Campus is another example of financial foolishness. If anyone is being selfish it is the neighbors of the Youth Campus who want all of PR to pay for a park on an extreme end of town when there is already a park right across the street. As FWT states-our real estate taxes will certainly go up for these nonessentially amenities but there will be no return on this “investment” tangible or intangible.

With the homeowner being the main provider of revenue to the schools, the town and the PRPD-we have to prioritize our tax dollars. A park is not a priority. A waterpark is not a priority. Failing to realize this is selfish and financially foolish.

Money does not grow on the trees of the Youth Campus property. Vote NO on April 9!

Confused about why you are demonizing the Park District – the property was privately held for something like a century. The Park District — and several private developers — only got involved when the prior Youth Campus property owners decided they needed to sell. You’d be the first to ready the tar and feathers if the Park District or any other taxing body had had the temerity to exercise its right to condemn private property! C’mon.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wrong again.

Dear Anon. at 10:14 am yesterday, apparently the same Anon. as 3:35 pm the day before:

Of course you are entitled to your opinion. That’s actually what I love about this blog.

My comment about the one-person community planning decider was not to challenge your right to an opinion. I was criticizing the blithe, careless, fact-free manner in which you stated “Somehow replacing it with a park feels more appropriate than replacing it with more houses we just don’t need.” Who decides how many houses we do or do not need? Land owners.

If I may, I think your point isn’t necessarily that “we don’t need houses”. Rather, you like the idea of establishing a park at the youth campus. Fair enough.

It seems silly, though, to base your entire opinion on feelings. Where are your facts?

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


(optional and not displayed)