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Montgomery hears request to keep Rt. 30 billboard : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Montgomery hears request to keep Rt. 30 billboard
Firm offers to take down Rt. 31 billboard if village OKs relocation of Rt. 30 sign

by John Etheredge


An outdoor sign company has offered to remove one of its billboards on Ill. Route 31 in Montgomery if the village board is willing to allow another billboard sign along U.S. Route 30 at the Route 31 interchange to be moved.

John Philipchuck, a Naperville attorney representing CBS Outdoor Signs, Inc., told the village board last week the two-sided sign on Route 30 at Route 31 now stands on right-of-way recently acquired by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) through eminent domain proceedings.

IDOT acquired the property as part of its reconstruction of the Route 30-Route 31 interchange.

Philipchuck said the sign is now the "subject of court action to determine the amount of reasonable compensation" his clients will receive from the state resulting from the pending removal of the billboard.

Philipchuck added the sign is one of three owned by his clients in the village. The other billboards owned by CBS Outdoor are located along the east side of Route 31, just south of the village's boundary with the City of Aurora.

CBS Outdoor obtained village permits and installed all three signs in 1999. Since that time, however, the village board voted to amend the municipal sign ordinance to prohibit the installation of any more billboards. As a result, Philipchuck said his clients' three signs have remained standing as legal, non-conforming uses.

The sign on Route 30, however, is subject for removal since the property it stands on has been acquired by IDOT.

However, Philipchuck told the board that if the Route 30 sign were moved about 15 feet north, it would again be outside IDOT's right-of-way and would comply with the state's highway setback requirement.

Referring to his clients northernmost billboard on Route 31, Philipchuck said, "the thought would be that this particular billboard could be removed in exchange for us being allowed to keep the one up along Route 30."

He reminded the board that the village's sign ordinance permits his clients to apply for a variance that would allow it to move and keep the Route 30 billboard.

Philipchuck added that by granting a variance and letting his clients move the billboard, they would be sparing state taxpayers the expense of having IDOT compensate his clients for the loss of revenue that would result if the billboard is taken down.

Philipchuck said he is uncertain about the financial loss the Route 30 property owner will experience due to the removal of the billboard, but estimated his clients' loss "would be in the neighborhood" of $500,000.

"In these cases the outdoor property owner is harmed as well as the outdoor billboard industry.

"We feel our proposal would be a win-win. There would be a savings to the taxpayers of Illinois because we wouldn't have to take a claim for the removal or elimination of that sign and, yet, you could still eliminate a billboard within the community (on Ill. Route 31)," he said.

When questioned by board members, Philipchuck said the current lease on the Route 30 billboard is good until 2029, while the leases on the Route 31 billboards extend until 2019, but can be renewed annually.

Village President Matt Brolley noted that a previous village board decided that billboards were not appropriate in the village.

Brolley also recalled that prior to last year's election, the board "took a very hard line" against a similar request to move a billboard at Orchard and Aucutt Road. That billboard has since been taken down.

"The question for this board is do you feel that billboards are appropriate or should be allowed along Route 30?" he asked.

Board members voiced differing opinions.

Board member Denny Lee voiced support for granting CBS Outdoor a variance that would allow the firm to move the Route 30 sign and keep it in place.

Lee, who was on the board in 2006 when the sign ordinance was amended to outlaw billboards, noted that at that time the billboards in the village often did not advertise local firms. However, he said Menards and Sam's Club, which will open a store in the village this summer, are now using the Route 30 billboard.

In the event the village were to deny CBS Outdoor's request to relocate the billboard, Lee said, "I would think Menards would be in here asking us why we're eliminating their advertising; plus they are a big sales tax generator for us."

Board member Stan Bond said he would favor the village granting a special use permit, which would allow the billboard to remain in place along Route 30.

Board member Doug Marecek added that he also supports allowing CBS to move the Route 30 sign "as long as it's not tied" to the firm's two other signs on Route 31.

Board member Steve Jungermann said he "has to vote no" against permitting the Route 30 sign to be relocated.

Jungermann noted last year he opposed a request from another sign owner to relocate the billboard at the northeast corner of Orchard Road and Aucutt Road. The owner's request to replace the billboard with an electronic LED billboard and relocate it out of the expanded right-of-way for Orchard Road was eventually rejected by the board.

Referring to the request to relocate the Route 30 billboard, board member Pete Heinz said, "I say no."

Board member Theresa Sperling was absent from the meeting.

At Brolley's suggestion, the board agreed to continue discussion of the CBS request during a meeting next month.

Village Administrator Jeff Zoephel said the board will resume their discussion during a regular board meeting scheduled for June 23.

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