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Updated June 26, 12:30 p.m.
The Riverside Plan Commission on June 19 gave a unanimous thumbs-down to a request by Riverside-Brookfield High School to place an electronic sign at the corner of Ridgewood and Golf roads, saying it would create safety issues and flew in the face of the village's sign ordinance.
A handful of property owners near the high school all spoke in opposition to the sign, and Gonzo Schexnayder, who lives across the street from the high school, presented a petition signed by 100 residents, predominantly from the Hollywood section of Riverside and Brookfield, opposing the plan.
"The citizens of Hollywood we spoke to overwhelmingly do not want an electronic sign at Golf and Ridgewood," Schexnayder said.
In 2010, the Plan Commission crafted a change to the sign ordinance to allow electronic signs along main thoroughfares in Riverside, after being approached by the high school to replace its present sign at the corner of First Avenue and Ridgewood Road.
The amendment restricted how close such a sign could be located to a residence and limited the hours a lighted sign could operate, among other things.
"We've given them the ability to have the reader sign," said Plan Commission Chairman Kenneth Kaval. "I believe that it should stay where we asked it to be, and that is the best for the village as a whole."
District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis argued that the sign would serve the school community better at the Ridgewood/Golf location, since anyone driving to the main entrance of the school would have to pass by that intersection.
But such a location would put it closer to residences and far away from First Avenue, two key provisions of the sign ordinance.
Both Kaval and Plan Commission member Paul Kucera worried that granting the variances to the sign ordinance for the high school might lead other institutions to ask for similar variances.
"[The concern] is the precedent that this would set," said Kucera. "The commission worked diligently to figure out language that would limit the proliferation to other areas of the village."
Gene Masella, a Parkview Road resident, said the electronic sign would be another distraction at a complex intersection where motorists already disregard stop signs.
"I think it's going to be a major problem for traffic," Masella said. "It's another distraction."
Plan Commissioner Paul Sterner agreed, saying he had already been involved in a car accident at that intersection, and that an electronic sign would just make matters worse.
"I think it's horrible to put any type of distractive signage that would interfere with drivers," Sterner said. "From a safety standpoint, I can't even imagine going for it without a traffic study."
Sterner said the First Avenue location makes more sense from a safety standpoint, because there is a stop light there.
The Plan Commission's recommendation to deny the variances sought by the high school will head to the village board, which could decide to overturn their ruling. It seems unlikely that the village board would do so.
Skinkis indicated after the Plan Commission's vote that the high school would seek to replace its sign at First Avenue and Ridgewood Road with the electronic version. As long as the sign meets the conditions of the ordinance, the Plan Commission would need to give its approval, but it would not need the approval of the village board.