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updated: 3/24/2020 7:29 PM

In wake of public criticism, Mundelein trustees reverse course on sign ban

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After growing public backlash, Mundelein trustees have declared the village's ban on pole signs and cabinet wall signs unenforceable.

The decision Monday night means businesses with those signs won't have to remove them by an April deadline set when the sign rules were approved five years ago. It comes two weeks after village trustees unanimously agreed they would remove those bans from the sign rules.

Amendments clarifying the policy change will be drafted, Mayor Steve Lentz said.

Mundelein officials adopted the sign ordinance in 2015 to improve the look of the village and reduce safety hazards.

The board gave business owners five years to change nonconforming signs or request exemptions. About 80% of the village's roughly 800 businesses are in compliance with the rules, officials have said.

Two local restaurants, Dover Straits and Bill's Pizza & Pub, were given permission to keep pole signs that otherwise would need to come down. The exemptions were granted because the signs were considered historic or key parts of the businesses' brand, Lentz said.

The sign ordinance came under public criticism in December after the board voted not to allow the popular Franks for the Memories restaurant to keep the iconic pole sign that's stood outside its Hawley Street building for more than 30 years.

The restaurant's owners argued the tall, yellow sign should be exempted from the rules because it has historical value and has become an important feature of the restaurant, but a board majority disagreed.

The board unanimously approved Monday's declaration during a meeting in which all trustees and other officials attended remotely via computer, rather than at village hall. Gov. J.B. Pritzker legalized such official gatherings last week by ordering some requirements of the state's Open Meetings Act temporarily lifted because of the COVID-19 virus epidemic.

People were able to listen to Monday's meeting using the village website, mundelein.org. Video wasn't available.