Heilmann Declares War on Shabby Signs

Sign owners have until March 1 to clean up their act or face fines up to $750.

Owners of abandoned signs, electric signs with burnt out bulbs, and temporary sandwich signs blocking the public way may soon be receiving a letter from the village ordering them to get the signs fixed or face fines up to $750.

“Developers and other community members and their boards have commented over years how loose [Oak Lawn’s] ordinance was compared to other communities,” Mayor Dave Heilmann said. “We’re allowing quite a bit.”

The new sign ordinance holds property owners, tenants and businesses accountable for signs that violate the ordinance for longer than 30 days. Those responsible for the offending signs are subject to fines from $50 to $750 if they are not corrected 30 days after receiving notification from the village.

Sign owners have until March 1 to clean up their act when the ordinance takes effect.

Examples of signs subject to citation under the ordinance include:

  • Cracked or broken signs.
  • Electric signs with burned out bulbs.
  • Unreadable signs due to weathering.
  • More than one temporary paper sign affixed to a pole; one temporary sign is permitted to a commercial lot, but a permit is required if the sign is larger than 8 square feet.
  • Temporary or sandwich signs blocking the public way.
  • Obsolete or abandoned signs that no longer advertise a bona fide business or signs on commercial properties that have failed to maintain a valid village business license.
  • More than one realty sign advertising a business for sale or lease, unless it’s a corner lot with double frontage.

Temporary or sandwich signs placed on the public way are immediately subject to provisions in the existing ordinance, Heilmann said.

“[Sandwich signs] tend to blow around and cause a lot of problems,” the mayor said. “It’s unsightly. Those are declared a nuisance and can be immediately cited.”

Although signs painted on the sides of buildings are exempt under the ordinance, sign owners must still comply with general provisions and maintain them. Real estate signs are also exempt from the provisions if less than 8 square feet.

Heilmann said signs in violation “that go on for months and months” make the neighborhood appear shabby.

“This is a way to keep our standards up,” Heilmann said. “The process is to let people know [of violations] and get them cure it but the village needs to have teeth in order to enforce it.”

The ordinance also allows the village to remove signs that remain in violation for 30 days or more after owners are given notice. Sign owners must pay the village’s costs for removing signs as well as any fines.

The village’s architectural review board and attorneys have reviewed several iterations of the ordinance. Although still imperfect, the mayor asked trustees to pass the ordinance on Tuesday.

“The idea is not to be big brother but to clean things up,” Heilmann said.

Ron Williams January 26, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Signage is a business's most obvious advertising tool, to allow it to fall into disrepair indicates one of two things, the business owner has no regard for their communities appearance, or the business is in financial straights and can not afford to repair it, neither of which is a good sign. For the first scenario, I say fine them ASAP, for the second I am not sure of the best solution, is there a sign maker in the village that could be a part of the solution? Maybe some kind of incentive (a tax credit?) to help the struggling business owner, if they can not afford the repair a $750.00 fine could be devastating. Governing is not an easy thing to do.
RobertS January 26, 2012 at 03:12 PM
The ice sign has been there for years... I see no problem with it! Hey Dave, go after the section eighters that are causing all the problems for O.L. then take on the sign issue!!
oaklawnconcerned January 26, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I applaud our Mayor for passing this ordinance. Mr. Heillman is doing a great job! I love Oak Lawn and don't want to live in a community where the appearance looks "run down"! Way to go Dave.
DLC DAVE January 26, 2012 at 04:00 PM
and just what is wrong with the way Robbins and Chicago Heights and Harvey look lol
Colleen January 26, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Leave the Ice sign alone. That is old town charm.
DLC DAVE January 26, 2012 at 04:21 PM
tomorrow is the 45th anniversary of the big snow in oak lawn 1967 wow where has the time gone .
Lorraine Swanson (Editor) January 26, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Don't know why your comment about the Big Snow is relevant to the sign story, DLC Dave, but I do agree with you: It was the greatest blizzard ever!
DLC DAVE January 26, 2012 at 04:32 PM
I guess the Snow story sounded more interesting then the old signs story and didnt see the story anywhere so I threw it in the mix . it was a winter I will never forget ,It showed man that mother Nature can stop you in your tracks . sorry I should of stayed on the sign story .
Lorraine Swanson (Editor) January 26, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Everything's good, DLC Dave. Thanks!
STM January 26, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Lorraine, Were you around during the Blizzard of 1967? You look too young.
Pat F January 26, 2012 at 05:12 PM
It's great they want to beautify the city with repairing outside signs.. How about an ordinance about how many signs they can tape to their windows?/ Many stores look like crap and you can't see in or out. This is quite tacky and also makes the town look like an inner city ghetto store!! Also I agree with RobertS.. There are far more important issues facing Oak Lawn and section 8 housing is on the top.. Multiple unrelated families living in single family homes ruining the family atmosphere feeling.. This also brings about big problems with school funding through our tax dollars and depleting the programs set up to help us, the legal tax paying residents!!
Peter Simpson January 26, 2012 at 05:33 PM
How long does it take to get a new sign for a new business, approved and then orderd, and then placed by a sign company? 30 days? I don't know the answer to this question.
PD January 26, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Hi: Where is section 8?
DLC DAVE January 26, 2012 at 06:27 PM
right between 7 & 9 lol
Dave W. January 26, 2012 at 07:30 PM
It is interesting how the section eight topic got dragged into this conversation, for not one but two reasons... First, as anyone that works in Oak Lawn real estate can tell you, while there are calls received for section eight homes in Oak Lawn, there is in reality VERY little actually available. That is a repeated red herring brought up by people who have a specific, often small-minded agenda. The little that there is can hardly be blamed for majority of the crime in Oak Lawn, so what is the excuse then? That people who AREN'T section eight are at fault; that some of them might be from Oak Lawn and NOT all CEOs or brain surgeons? Oak Lawn has some problems, like every modern village of our size; one of them is worrying about dividing people into groups to be blamed instead of working to come together as a whole. Remember when the debacle on 95th and Cook closed Cook and created another TIF under the criminals that used to run the board? EVERYBODY was freaking out that section eight and 'low-income' people (aren't code-names fun?) were going to move in en masse...um, didn't happen. On the OTHER hand... Secondly, many cities have VERY restrictive convenants about signage. An ordinance like this one is EXACTLY what a smart town puts into place to address the issues of decay and shoddiness that often lead a town to get that rundown appearance. Which in turn leads to the problems that the small-minded fear from section eight and such. (THAT is called irony, by they way.)
great idea January 26, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Great idea in concept,but with government as usual with laws, how are you going to enforce it?? It will take 3 months just to find out who owns the property and sign in question and then another 3 months to contact the owner!! Just look at how long to takes to enforce the homeowner maintaining ordinances !!! Good Luck with that one..
Lorraine Swanson (Editor) January 26, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Thanks for the compliment, Ted. It's so much nicer than the guy who came up to me in a bar a few weeks ago while I was enjoying some "sodas" with my young colleagues and asked if they were my children. I recently celebrated my 16th 39th birthday and yes, I was around for the Big Snow of 1967.
rollindaol January 27, 2012 at 02:12 AM
yeah lets worry about signs when the village is up for grabs with crime and gang thuggery...
Oak Lawn Gal January 27, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Me too. It's been there for years. It must be an historical landmark by now lol.
SANDRA ZELIS January 27, 2012 at 06:33 AM
The village is getting money hungry. Why even bother to own a home in Oak Lawn if they are going to tell you what you can and cannot have.
STM January 27, 2012 at 11:54 AM
It's a free country. Move to where the village gives you money to live there. If you find such place, let me know.
Glen Kato January 27, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I think The Village should get together with the Chamber of Commerce ( and its local sign makers ) to help improve the ugly signs and "Shop Oak Lawn" at the same time. Just a thought.
Karen Harrigan January 28, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Great! I agree with Mayor Heilmann - run down, old shabby signs make our town look like a mess. Dave - keep up the great work. Pat F - great comment about the window signs as well....agree!
mkb January 30, 2012 at 11:52 PM
crime an gang thuggery can be stopped by voting them off the board...
Oak Lawn Gal January 31, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Glen I agree. I think it's important to keep the village looking good. I know we have other problems. But run-down buildings, broken or gaudy signage all make for a bad appearance for the village. Kind of Off Topic: Does anyone remember the trustee (who shall remeain nameless) who said that he and his wife did all of their shopping online? Lol! So much for Shop Oak Lawn
ME January 31, 2012 at 04:24 AM
As far as I am concerned, the Mayor is making a great effort by starting here. He needs to be much harder on everyone. People need to fix up their properties, throw out trash and get rid of cars and boats and campers that are not being used. Is the owner of the six flat on 99th & Cicero being fined for anything? That building has been for rent for many years. What is wrong with it? What about the former gas station/mobile phone store on 99th & Cicero? What's being done with that empty building and others around OL? Mayor, keep it going. Make some huge laws and stick by them. Thank you for your efforts. Most of us citizens are behind you 100%!
Wild Bill Oats February 12, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Hey not to change the subject, but I heard Jane Quinlan is running for Mayor in 2013.
OakLawnGuy February 12, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Oak Lawn Gal February 12, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Jane would be an interesting candidate. Is this a "feeler" or is this fact?
Dave W. February 13, 2012 at 04:41 AM
My mom very often will say "Needless to say..." then continue talking; obviously, what she is gong to say either ISN'T needless to say, OR she shouldn't be saying it. also, when people say "No offense..." or "No disrespect intended, but..." when clearly, they are about to do just that. Not to change the subject or anything...


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