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McHenry County billboard ban to be extended into fall

Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014 10:10 p.m. CST • Updated: Saturday, March 22, 2014 11:34 p.m. CST

WOODSTOCK – A McHenry County Board committee is going to move forward with a third, shorter and hopefully final extension of a moratorium on off-premises electronic billboards.

The Planning and Development Committee decided Thursday to ask county staff to draft a short-term moratorium to extend the mid-June expiration date to fall, when the County Board is expected to approve the Unified Development Ordinance that will place new restrictions on such signs.

The State’s Attorney’s Office advised against any further moratoriums when the County Board approved the second extension last September. But the committee decided against the option presented to it by the county Planning and Development Committee of asking the County Board to instead grant early approval the portion of the draft UDO dealing with the signs.

“I personally did not want to see us do a piecemeal adoption of the UDO, and so I asked staff to go back and prepare for a short extension,” committee Chairman Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, said Friday.

The County Board imposed the moratorium in September 2012 at the request of the governments of Algonquin, Crystal Lake, Lake in the Hills and Lakewood. Officials asked the county for a temporary ban out of frustration after there was a surge of requests by sign companies to erect large video billboards on unincorporated land outside their boundaries, where the county’s sign rules are, for now, much less strict.

The UDO, now in draft form, modernizes all of the county’s development ordinances and combines them into a single code, and includes stricter limits on such signs. Opponents of such signs call them eyesores that cause light pollution, lower surrounding property values and reduce driver safety.

The original moratorium and its 2013 extension contained provisions that they would sunset sooner upon ratification of the UDO. But the process has moved slower than expected – the county just last month moved the 300-page, 20-chapter ordinance to public review.

Gottemoller, a zoning and land use attorney by profession, said he believes a third, smaller and final extension will be legally defensible because the committee and the Zoning Board of Appeals have been meeting regularly for more than a year to jointly review the UDO.

“Nobody can look at what we’ve done in the past year and say the County Board hasn’t been moving it forward,” Gottemoller said.

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