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La Grange businesses still waiting for signs

Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 11:13 a.m. CDT

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LA GRANGE – The businesses want attractive signs to announce their presence. The village wants to preserve the architectural character of its top-rated downtown. Who wins? 

After a nearly hour-long discussion Monday, the Village Board tabled a decision on a request by several businesses at 1 N. La Grange Road to allow signs outside their locations on the building's second floor. The village's zoning code does not allow any signage above the first floor of a building. 

Mid-America Asset Management, manager of the property, applied for variations to the code to allow a sign for the building as a whole and individual signs for the building's second-floor tenants: Massage Envy and ATI Physical Therapy, which currently have unattractive window banners.

The Zoning Board of Appeals recommended the village allow a variation to the code to let the businesses erect signs no bigger than 25 square feet on the facade of the second floor of the building, which faces the railroad tracks where commuter trains pass by.

But the Village Board hesitated and ultimately declined to vote on the variation proposal, arguing that the issue needed to be weighed for the entire village, not just one property.

“Once you approve this, it’s awfully hard to say no to someone else when they’re asking for something similar," Trustee Mark Langan said.

The issue will be taken up by one if not several other committees, namely the Design Review Commission and the Plan Commission, before returning to the Village Board for a vote.

Trustee David McCarty, an architect who helped write the zoning code, said the ordinance was written to preserve the pedestrian nature of the downtown area and that signage for pedestrians should be geared toward retail businesses – not service-oriented ones like Massage Envy and ATI.

"You frankly can't see them," McCarty said of second-floor signs. "They're a waste, and they mostly serve to generate business for the sign manufacturers."

Mid-America's Patricia Mahony said the building's tenants were told when they moved in that they would be allowed to have signs. Mahony said there isn't enough room outside the building to construct a free-standing sign that would include names of all the businesses. 

“We’re looking for visibility," Mahony said. "Someone on the train, someone driving by. Because that’s the nature of the district; it’s vehicular.”

Trustees were open to the addition of a sign indicating the building's address, which, if approved, could buy the village time in the eyes of the businesses as it decides whether to permanently amend its stringent signage code. 

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