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Business owner expresses concerns about SV’s LED sign ordinance

SPRING VALLEY — Spring Valley business owner John French, accompanied with his attorney Julie Ajster, both spoke at the Spring Valley City Council meeting on Monday with concerns regarding the drafted ordinance meant to regulate the new LED business signs.

French is the owner of the two new LED signs located on Dakota Street. After erecting the signs earlier this year, the council heard complaints from residents who believed the signs were too bright and a bothersome to surrounding neighbors.

Since then, the council has been working on an ordinance to better regulate the brightness of the signs. City Attorney Jim Andreoni used the city of Chicago’s dynamic image display sign ordinance as a starting point for drafting Spring Valley’s ordinance.

Modifications have been made to better fit the city of Spring Valley.

On Monday, Ajster said the issue with the brightness of the signs is understandable, but the city’s drafted ordinance seemed to control more issues about the sign than just the brightness.

“(Mr. French) is willing to make any modifications to the brightness, but the ordinance seems to go a little beyond that and other issues, as well,” she said. “My concern is that the ordinance is so restricting that modifications can’t be made to his signs and he would have to turn them off. That in essence might be a taking of his property.”

Andreoni explained the council was not wedded to the draft ordinance and is seeking input from owners of the signs to see what concerns they might have the regulations. He said the council is still trying to learn more about the LED signs and their capabilities before they pass the ordinance, because they are such a new technology.

French stressed how important the signs were for advertising and how much they’ve boosted business since being erected.

“I didn’t think they would do as much as they have, but I’m averaging 12 to 15 calls a day from the signs,” he said. “Other businesses have come forward and want to put a (digital) sign at their business. So the sign is huge and it’s great for the city of Spring Valley.”

French said he is working on fixing the brightness. It was explained that his signs have to be turned down by a wireless computer software program, so the process was not as easy as turning a knob on the sign.

French also spoke against the ordinance’s mention of turning the sign off between midnight and 5 a.m. Not only would turning the sign off every night hurt the life expectancy of the sign, but it would hurt the purpose of the sign.

“ I’m willing to do whatever I can to turn it down to help the city, but to turn it off, I’d feel like the sign was a failure. There may not be a lot of people out during those times, but they still notice the signs and that’s a great time to have it on,” he said.

Alderman Dan McFadden clarified the council is not trying to pass an ordinance against John French, but rather for future’s sake.

“This sign ordinance is to protect both the citizens and the business owners of Spring Valley from any other problems down the line,” he said.

The ordinance was not on Monday’s agenda for the council to vote on, but the council plans to hold a future committee meeting to further discuss modifications to the ordinance.

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