Local Government

Sign moratorium gets third and final extension

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board has adopted a third and last extension of its protracted ban on new electronic billboards, pending an August ratification of its Unified Development Ordinance.

County Board members voted Tuesday evening, 20-3, to extend the ban one last time, until the development ordinance enacts new and stricter limits on the placement of signs. The board first enacted a six-month ban on electronic billboards in September 2012, hoping that the UDO would be ready. But the process moved slower than expected, forcing an extension in April 2013, and another the following September.

But the Planning and Development Committee that advanced the extension of the moratorium has finished its review of the UDO, and in a special meeting Tuesday evening advanced it to the full County Board. The board will officially receive the UDO at its July 1 meeting, starting a 30-day review process and an expected ratification vote Aug. 5.

The 300-page UDO, which has been a work in progress for three years, modernizes all of the county's development ordinances for unincorporated areas 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 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.

How they voted

The McHenry County Board voted Tuesday evening, 20-3, to impose one final extension of its moratorium on the building of new off-premises electronic billboards.

Voting no were members Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, Sue Drafkorn, R-Wonder Lake, and Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake. Board member Mary McCann, R-Woodstock, was absent.

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