Riverside-Brookfield High School officials would like to replace the old-fashioned message board at the corner of First Avenue and Ridgewood Road, with a new easy-to-read electronic LED message board.
And members of the Riverside Plan Commission, who are considering the request, would like to accommodate them. The problem is that Riverside’s building code doesn’t allow such signs and plan commissioners don’t want similar boards popping up elsewhere in the village.
School officials first pitched the new message board to the Plan Commission in November 2009, and kicked around the idea again last week at a special meeting. It’ll take at least another month before the group could rule on a recommendation on amending the building code to allow LED signs in some fashion. That recommendation would then be passed along to the village board, which could affirm that recommendation or turn it down.
Either way, it looks like it could be March before the school will have an answer to its request.
According to materials submitted to the Plan Commission, the new sign would use the existing brick columns that support the current plastic-letter message board. A lighted cabinet bearing the name of the school in bold letters would top the electronic message board, which would be roughly 3-by-7 feet.
“The digital reader board will have up to four lines of text and is a full color display,” Pat Sumrow, owner’s representative for Riverside-Brookfield High School, said in an e-mail. “The upper and lower boxes will have permanent text; the lowest box will state ‘Home of the Bulldogs’ and the top box [will] show the name of the high school.”
In all, it would stand to a height of eight feet from the ground, which is a little shorter than the existing sign, which stands 8.4-feet high.
According to Sumrow the new message board was contemplated as part of the overall renovation of the school campus, which has been ongoing since 2006.
Anticipating a new sign, workers dug a trench from the school to the area of the sign and installed PVC piping, which would eventually hold fiber optic wiring. Sumrow said that the school enlisted the help of the contractor responsible for all of the new signage, Burr Ridge-based Image FX, to design the new message board, which will cost approximately $18,000.
“I have no problem changing over to modern technology,” said Paul Sterner, a Riverside Plan Commission member. “To me, it’s rational to have it in this location, but not elsewhere. I don’t want to have the perimeter of the town to have these.”
The trouble is that Riverside’s building code states “flashing, blinking, revolving, fluttering or delayed action illuminated signs” are prohibited.
Village Attorney Dean Krone said the village could seek to prohibit such signs in other areas of town, but doubted the village could regulate the content of those signs. Thus, he said, it would be difficult to allow institutions such signs, but not businesses.
“I think we’re better off focusing on potential problems and limit the places you can put the signs, the location, but not the nature or character of the uses,” he said.
Plan Commission Chairman Ken Kaval suggested limiting such signs to state highways – Harlem Avenue, First Avenue and Ogden Avenue. On Ogden or First Avenue, there are few, if any, other places where such signs would be useful in Riverside, he said.
As for Harlem Avenue, signs pointing away from Riverside wouldn’t have an impact on the village’s residents who live near such sign, he added.
In response to some concern about an electric, lighted sign being a nuisance to residents on Ridgewood Road, school officials said that the signs hours of operation would be limited to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
As for rapidly changing messages that could distract motorists, RB’s Interim Superintendent David Bonnette said in a separate interview that “if it winds up getting approval, we’ll certainly have messages that will be up there awhile. We would not have the rapid-fire changes that would become a distraction.”
The sign’s messages would be changed using a computer inside the building. Currently, an employee from the school’s maintenance contracting firm, Aramark, changes the messages by hand about once a week.
“We don’t want it to be a distraction,” Bonnette said. “We want it to be an effective means of communication.”