The Riverside Village Board on June 4 voted to reverse its decision to deny a permit for a street address monument sign that had been erected without a permit last year in front of a home on Nuttall Road.
In doing so, the board also didn’t approve a permit for the sign. Rather, the board tabled the matter until officials could further explore the issue of such signs, which dot the village — some of them going back decades — in defiance of the village’s zoning code.
“We want an ordinance that’s easy to understand and easy for staff to enforce,” Sells said. “This is a subject where we should get as much input as we can.”
The issue came to a head in November 2014, when the village’s Community Development Department received a complaint regarding the street address monument sign at 122 Nuttall Road. While the sign is located on the house side of the sidewalk, it is actually on public property.
Property lines in Riverside often do not extend all the way to the curving public sidewalk, so what appears to be private property actually is not.
“Hopefully, we can use this as education about the existence of the public right-of-way [on what appears to be private property],” said Sells in a separate interview. “I wouldn’t have known that.”
That appears to be what happened at 122 Nuttall Road, where the owners placed a roughly 3-foot-high by 6-foot-wide decorative stone monument, a small wall, bearing the home’s address. After being informed of the problem, the homeowners sought to obtain a hardscape permit from the village for the sign, which required them to appear before both the Landscape Advisory Commission and the Preservation Commission.
The Landscape Advisory Commission recommended granting the permit, saying it was “consistent with the property, and the materials are consistent with the village’s natural landscape aesthetic.”
However, the Preservation Commission recommended against granting a permit because it was located on public property and because of its “visual impact.”
When the hardscape application made its way to the village board on May 21, trustees voted 3-3 on the matter. Sells cast the deciding vote against granting the application. The main problem, according to those voting against the sign, was its placement on public property.
However, it also was revealed that even had the sign been located on private property it wouldn’t have been allowed, since village code states addresses must be located “within the building line” of the property, meaning the house itself.
Trustee Joseph Ballerine cautioned that the board might be opening a can of worms by ordering the sign at 122 Nuttall removed without further examination of the village’s laws regarding such objects in the public right-of-way.
Ballerine pointed to the large concrete planters at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Coonley Estate and other structures that already exist in Riverside.
“I wouldn’t support tearing the [address sign] out unless we ask everyone that has them,” Ballerine said on May 27. “That’d have to be the fair thing to do.”
On June 4, Ballerine restated his problem with summarily ordering the removal of the address sign based on what the village has allowed to stand in the past.
“I worry about the government telling people what they can or can’t do when a government before didn’t,” Ballerine said.
Sells, in an interview last week, said the village board’s “intent is not to turn back the clock.” He said he could see a scenario where existing right-of-way encroachments were grandfathered, but where new ones would have to comply with whatever amended code the village settles on.
Village Manager Jessica Frances said she will be sitting down with the village’s director of community development, Sonya Abt, along with Public Works Director Edward Bailey and Village Attorney Michael Marrs to come up with possible recommendations for the village board.
Their findings are expected to be delivered to village trustees in time for discussion at the July 16 board meeting. At that time, trustees may decide which advisory commissions should further study the issue.
In the meantime, the sign at 122 Nuttall Road remains on village property as the owners await the village’s final decision.