Riverside-Brookfield High School could be in line soon for a new, electronic message board at the corner of First Avenue and Ridgewood Road. On June 21, the Riverside village board will consider amending the building code to allow for such signs, a process that has been in the works since last November.
Trustees discussed the proposed sign briefly at their regular business meeting on June 7. Trustee John Scully went on record saying he supported the change in the code to permit RB’s sign. Village President Michael Gorman recused himself from the discussion and the future vote, because his wife is an employee of the high school.
The language of the code amendment is written in a way that restricts them to almost nowhere else in the village. Such signs are restricted to major arterial roads – identified as First Avenue, Ogden Avenue and Harlem Avenue where that street is two lanes in both directions.
But, according to the proposed amendment, such a sign can only be located on a parcel with at least 300 feet of frontage along that road and at least 500 feet from the nearest such sign on the same side of the street.
In addition, such signs won’t be allowed within 180 feet of any residence – including apartments or condos located above businesses.
The amendment also restricts the content of electronic message boards to the “business or activities conducted on the premises, civic announcements” and time, date and temperature. Such signs can only operate between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and can’t display “flashing, blinking, undulating, revolving, fluttering or delayed action” messages.
The high school approached the village’s Plan Commission in November for permission to erect a new message board to replace its old-fashioned plastic-letter board.
While planning commissioners from the start favored the idea of such a message board for the high school, they were also concerned about drafting an amendment to the building code that would restrict the number of possible locations for such signs but not do so in a way that would smack of spot zoning.
Commissioners also sought input from Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel on potential safety hazards of such a sign being allowed at a particularly busy intersection, especially when school is in session.
Weitzel wrote in an e-mail to building director Bob Caraher, “I’m hoping the amount of light being dispersed and the rate of screen changes/displays can be regulated and/or adjusted.”
Village Manager Peter Scalera said letters were sent to Ridgewood Road residents regarding the discussion of the proposed amendment allowing the electronic sign at RB. No residents from that block appeared at the meeting.
Trustees and the village’s attorneys, however, received an earful from Riverside resident Nicholas Cariello, who said placement of such a sign at the high school – a property with a residential zoning designation – ran counter to the village’s zoning code.
Officials responded that the issue was not a zoning matter, and that the amendment was being made to a village code, not the zoning code.
If approved, the high school expects to spend approximately $18,000 on the sign, which would be in the same location (using the same brick piers as anchors) and about the same size as the current sign.