Impact Outdoor gets more sign sites; potential competitor denied
BY BOB OKON firstname.lastname@example.org August 18, 2013 4:50PM
Ed Hursh with Impact Outdoor. | Bob Okon~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 20, 2013 6:16AM
The Joliet Zoning Board of Appeals has turned down a proposal to put up one of the new city electronic message boards on Collins Street, raising concerns that it was keeping the business in the hands of one company.
Joliet-based Chi Town Signs will take its case to the city council, which so far has seemed willing to allow the sign at the corner of Woodruff Road.
But as of Thursday, when the zoning board voted, only Naperville-based Impact Outdoor has received permission to put up the signs, and that company also has expressed interest in putting one on Collins Street.
The zoning board also approved three more sign locations for Impact Outdoor, finding a way around the same issue that was a stumbling block for Chi Town Signs.
The signs are potentially lucrative because the electronic displays allow space to be sold to multiple advertisers at the same location. Joliet has allowed the signs on city streets in a public-private venture with Impact Outdoor that requires that one out of eight rotating images be made available to the city at no charge for public interest messages. Impact Outdoor so far has put up two of the signs, which are mounted on city of Joliet monument stones, outside of the Louis Joliet Mall and at the corner of Larkin Avenue and Theodore Street.
“All we’re trying to do is get the exact same agreement,” Carlos Tinoco with Chi Town Signs told the zoning board.
The board eventually voted 3 to 2 against the Chi Town Signs plan with one member abstaining.
“I’d like to get the animation straightened out,” board member Charles Graham said.
Graham and other board members said they were concerned about language in the Chi Town Signs agreement that allowed animated images on the signs. But the same language is in an agreement made more than a year ago allowing Impact Outdoor to put up to 12 of the signs around Joliet.
When Impact Outdoor appeared minutes later to get approval for three locations, the board found a way to get around the animated image issue. The words were taken out of the zoning measure approved Thursday allowing three new sign locations for Impact Outdoor. But city planners said the zoning board action would not change the original agreement allowing Impact Outdoor to put animated images on its signs.
“I would have taken out the ‘animation’ if they would have given me the option,” Tinoco said later.
Board member Jim Riggs also raised questions about a land deal that came with the Chi Town Signs agreement. The sign would go on property owned by Imperial Roofing, a business which Tinoco also is affiliated with. Imperial Roofing would get an adjacent 8,200-square-foot piece of city-owned property in exchange for putting up the sign and making improvements to the business property.
Tinoco agreed to a condition urged at the meeting by Riggs, who did not want a sign on the site until property improvements were completed.
But Tinoco said it was not his idea to put a sign at the site. Tinoco said he initially approached city hall to buy the city-owned property because Imperial Roofing needs more space. But city planners wanted him to make building improvements and put up the sign in order to get the land.
Rod Hursh, a manager with Impact Outdoor, spoke against the Chi Town Signs plan, saying his own efforts have been slowed down because of difficulty getting state permits. Hursh also said he has been looking at Collins Street for a sign location, although he has not proposed a site yet.
Graham, Riggs and Denise Powers voted against Chi Town Signs. Chairman Ed Hennessy and William Ferguson voted for the proposal. Elizabeth Nevarez abstained.
Tinoco said he will seek approval from the city council, which can override the zoning board’s decision. The Land Use Committee of the city council voted 3 to 0 last month to recommend approval of the sign.
The full city council would consider the proposal in September.
The three new sign locations for Impact Outdoor that were approved include a second location outside the Louis Joliet Mall and another on Houbolt Road near the Interstate 80 interchange. Both of those sites were approved unanimously.
There was division on the board about the third location at Jefferson Street and Larkin Avenue. Powers and Nevarez voted against a sign at Jefferson and Larkin, raising concerns about safety issues at one of the city’s busiest intersections.
“It seems awfully crowded there,” Powers said, noting the electronic message board would be near the White Castle sign on the same corner.