A proposed new law regulating business signs in Riverside is in jeopardy of not being passed after village trustees failed to come to a consensus on a provision that calls for non-conforming signs to be phased out over time.

At the village board’s meeting on Dec. 18, trustees split 3 to 3 on a pair of formal motions by Trustee Doug Pollock — one which would have passed the law with the phase-out, and one which would have passed the new law but which would have grandfathered existing non-conforming signs — with President Ben Sells breaking the deadlock by voting no both times.

“I think something of this significance to the village should not be decided by a tie-breaker vote,” Sells said. “If we can’t reach a broader consensus, then we have more work to do.”

After an hour and a half of discussion and attempts to craft some sort of compromise, trustees agreed to let the village’s 2005 sign law stand for now, but placed a temporary moratorium on enforcing the provision in the 2005 code that mandates phasing out non-conforming signs.

The village board is expected to take up the issue again at its meeting on Jan. 15, but it’s unclear exactly where things are headed after last week’s attempt to get something hammered out.

Part of the issue is that Trustee Michael Foley said he will refuse to vote to approve any new sign law, even though he appears to favor grandfathering in existing non-conforming signs and the 2005 law mandates their removal. He voted no to both motions last week.

Foley said he wants to complete the East Burlington Street renovation project before tackling the sign code.

“We’re talking about the icing when we haven’t even baked the cake,” Foley said in a separate interview.”

The new sign ordinance allows for businesses to have more signage, including shingle-type signs that project perpendicularly from buildings. It increases the size of wall signs that are allowed, would allow signs on side walls and specific types of internally illuminated box signs, both of which are disallowed in the 2005 code.

Also voting against both motions, but for different reasons, was Trustee Joseph Ballerine, who favors getting rid of the phase-out language for existing non-conforming signs. Ballerine also wants language in the code that would make it easier for businesses to erect certain types of signs that the proposed law prohibits.

While businesses can go through a variation process to get those kinds of signs approved, Ballerine said there’s no guarantee that the Planning and Zoning Commission would approve a sign it had previously frowned on.

“The variation process goes through the same group that outlawed the signs,” Ballerine said in an interview following the meeting.

He also believes that the proposed code, as written, is simply too complicated.

“It’s a big ordinance that’s been drafted and re-drafted. It’s more confusing than it needs to be,” Ballerine said.

Trustee Patricia Collins voted in favor of grandfathering in existing non-conforming signs. While both Pollock and Trustee Jean Sussman lean toward keeping the phase-out provision in the new code, they are both amenable to — and on Dec. 18 both voted for —  grandfathering in existing non-conforming signs, though they’d like to see tighter controls on future signage.

Trustee Ellen Hamilton said she favors simply enforcing the 2005 sign ordinance already on the books.

“If we remove [the non-conforming sign phase-out], I think [the new ordinance] is a waste of time,” Hamilton said.

While last week’s discussion appeared to leave the sign code revision dead on the road side, Ballerine said he is confident the board can find common ground and pass a new law early in 2015.

“This thing is going to be rectified one way or another,” Ballerine said. “I think we now have a sense of what everybody wants. It’s not dead. I think we’re getting there.”