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.