The sign emblazoned with the image of a tuxedoed bird sporting a top hat boasts Cock Robin Ice Cream has been there “since 1931.” In reality, the business has been gone since it closed in 2007, and the sign now looms over a vacant lot at 8861 Burlington Ave., where three generations of Brookfielders once bought One-in-a-Million milkshakes and steakburgers. The building was demolished in 2011.
By definition, that sign is obsolete and, according to the village’s sign code, needs to come down.
However, the old Cock Robin sign might be afforded some protection soon, if the Brookfield Village Board adopts a recommendation from its Planning and Zoning Commission to allow the owners of “historic” signs to apply for that designation.
On Aug. 22, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that change, along with several others, to the village’s sign code in an effort to update it and make it more consistent.
“It takes an obsolete or non-conforming sign and gives it a designation, if it adds character and value to the community,” said Elyse Vukelich, Brookfield’s village planner.
It’s unclear what the future holds for the Cock Robin sign, which is owned by Martin Lynch, who also owns the two properties immediately west of the sign at 8863 and 8869 Burlington Ave.
In 2017, Lynch told the Landmark he was contemplating building a new mixed-use commercial development in the wake of the village’s update to the zoning code in the downtown area. However, no plans for such a development have surfaced.
Lynch did not respond to a pair of phone messages from the Landmark regarding the sign.
According to the proposed code amendment, which is likely to go to the village board for a vote in September, owners of “historic signs” can apply for it to be preserved for five-years. The application is renewable; the designation is not permanent.
To be considered a historic sign, it must be at least 15 years old and the owner needs to provide a history of the sign and a maintenance plan. The owner has to demonstrate that the sign has some sort of local significance or historic value, and the sign has to possess “unique design characteristics such as configuration, message, color, texture, materials, illumination, etc.”
Like applying for a zoning variance, the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission would be tasked with reviewing the applications and recommending whether or not to grant the designation to the village board, which would have the final say.