By Dermot Connolly
A two-year process of updating the Orland Park sign code is nearly complete, with the Village Board coming to agreement this week on regulations that will be included in a new ordinance likely to be voted on next month.
Development Services director Karie Friling said the update “reflects a complete rewrite of the section of the village code regarding signage,” which has not been updated since 2011.
Senior planner Stephanie Malmborg, who has been working on the project for the past two years, said the update was needed because the current code is “redundant, unclear and in some cases illegal,” since the Supreme Court has ruled that the content of signs cannot be regulated.
She said the goal is to make the code regulating signage in commercial, industrial and residential areas of the village “clear, consistent, legal and visually pleasing.”
Among the biggest changes noticeable to residents will be that temporary A-frame or sandwich board signs paced outside businesses will now be allowed, as long as they are made of wood or metal rather than plastic. However, they must be located within 15 feet of the entrance, not in the public way, and secured so they cannot blow around.
The board members agreed with the change since the A-frames received high marks from a majority of staff and trustees who provided feedback and took a survey on the various signs. But after questions were raised about whether this also includes the “sandwich boards” worn by people advertising restaurants or other services, Mayor Keith Pekau asked that the final wording of the ordinance make clear that those “walking signs” are still not allowed.
Also forbidden, as they have been in the past, are digital signs, with flashing messages in lights.
Trustee Jim Dodge noted that the only two electronic signs in town are outside the American Sale store at 16660 S. LaGrange Road, and Sandburg High School, 13300 S. LaGrange Road. He said they are only allowed because they were “grandfathered in” when those properties were annexed to the village within the past 10 years.
William Alt, speaking for parishioners of St. Michael Church who were on hand at the meeting, urged the board to reconsider, and at least allow “tasteful” digital signs outside churches. He asked that such signs be allowed as long as they are “architecturally and aesthetically pleasing.”
Alt said he wasn’t against businesses having them either, and would be amenable to restrictions on how often the displays can change, so they wouldn’t be flashing endlessly.
Carole Griffin Ruzich said she was one of the few who were originally amenable to allowing the electronic signs. But she acknowledged the concerns raised by Trustee Kathy Fenton, a St. Michael’s parishioner, and others who said enforcing regulations on how often the messages changed would be difficult or impossible.
Dodge said he remains opposed to the electronic signs “full stop,” and would have liked to get rid of signs with moveable lettering as well, because letters are missing so often, making them hard to read.
Pekau suggested working with the churches to help them get their messages out online, rather than with electronic signs.
The new regulations also crack down on a wide variety of temporary signage, prohibiting inflatables to 14 days and only for use with grand openings. Banner signs attached to buildings will only be allowed for 90-day periods for seasonal stores, and for seven-day periods, four times a year for other businesses.
Pennants and “feather flags” fluttering on the ground will be prohibited entirely.
“We were lenient on those during when the construction on LaGrange Road was underway. But that is over now,” said Dodge.