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Committee wants one last extension of sign moratorium

Published: Thursday, May 15, 2014 4:24 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 16, 2014 12:17 a.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – A McHenry County Board committee is recommending what it hopes is a final extension of a ban on new electronic billboards until the Unified Development Ordinance is ratified.

The Planning and Development Committee voted Thursday, 7-0, to recommend that the County Board extend a moratorium that has been effect for more than a year and a half to Oct. 22 or when the board adopts the ordinance, whichever comes first. The moratorium's second extension was set to expire next month, but the ordinance's final draft is still under review.

The 300-page ordinance, which has been a work in progress for three years, modernizes all of the county's development ordinances and combines them into a single code. And among its changes are stricter limits on electronic billboards. which opponents allege are eyesores that cause light pollution and reduce driver safety.

County Board members first imposed the moratorium in in September 2012 at the request of the governments of Algonquin, Crystal Lake, Lake in the Hills and Lakewood. Municipal officials asked for the ban out of frustration after the county received a surge of requests by sign companies to erect large video billboards on unincorporated land just outside their boundaries to take advantage of looser regulations.

Crystal Lake and Lakewood before the moratorium were forced to annex adjoining land to stop media companies from building electronic billboards that defied the limits those governments put on them. In Crystal Lake's case, the 35-foot-tall billboard would have been five times larger than what the city's sign ordinance allows.

The original moratorium and its subsequent extensions included provisions that it would sunset upon the ordinance becoming law. But the process has moved slower than expected, although it is now approaching the final stretch. The original moratorium lasted until April 2013, but the County Board extended it to September 2013, and then again through this June.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is expected next month to forward the final draft, after incorporating changes from public comment, to the Planning and Development Committee. After that committee makes any changes, the ordinance will go on 30-day review before the County Board for a vote.

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