City Council members are scheduled to vote Tuesday evening on a proposal to eliminate the ban on new billboards in Evanston.

Permitting new billboards was initially proposed in January by Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) as a way to generate new revenue for property owners and licensing fees for the city.

Suffredin’s referral was prompted by a request from Patrick Fowler, owner of the Firehouse Grill on Chicago Avenue, that he be allowed to construct a billboard facing the CTA tracks on the back of his building

The billboard proposal has drawn the unanimous opposition of the city’s Land Use Commission.

The commissioners say the city’s comprehensive plan rejects creation of new billboards in the city and that it calls for elimination of the few legally-nonconforming billboards that exist.

The commission also claims billboards would not be compatible with the overall character of existing development in the city.

Billboards have also drawn complaints across the country, including in Chicago, that they represent a form of “visual blight.”

But in response to Suffredin’s request and some support from other council members at a Planning and Development Committee meeting in June, city staff has prepared a draft ordinance to allow billboards as a special use in any zoning district when a property is within 1,000 feet of a passenger train line.

The staff memo suggests the council could choose other distance limits, with several options shown on a map prepared by city staff.

If the proposed ordinance is approved for introduction on Tuesday, it could win final approval at the Council’s Oct. 10 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Really, do not do this. It is visual blight, and makes it clear that our sight-lines, our headspace, and our public ways are for sale. I would be interested in electorally punishing any alders who are interested in selling our relative visual calm to Clear Channel. I am not the only one sensitive to this.

  2. What a terrible idea. Deriving income from billboards at the expense of the city’s image and neighborhoods is wrong! A brief inspection of the map that illustrates proposed buffers for billboard placement shows that even in the smallest 250 foot range residential neighborhoods are affected. At 1000 feet the impact is frightening. Don’t do it!

  3. Billboards are like visual noise. We don’t need more clutter in our minds. They distract drivers as well. As I drive around the country, I’m always shocked to see a community that allows billboards. They are like visual junk. Evanston is a city, full of city noises and city sights. It’s also a suburb which should provide some calm and relief from city life. Let’s not upset that wonderful balance in Evanston by tipping the other way with more billboards. We don’t need to grasp for every penny by selling off parts of our environment.

  4. Evanston residents should be protected from visual blight. Got it.

    But for riders of the CTA and Metra? Blast away! Apparently, they have no right to a view that’s free of visual pollution and incessant advertising.

    Classism at its worst. Protection for me, none for thee.

  5. I’m also opposed to this idea. When we think about the best aspects of Evanston, we think of tree-lined streets, classic brick buildings, families of all kinds playing happily in clean parks, and so on.

    Visual blight such as billboards absolutely do not fit this image, and would just contribute to the cheapening of Evanston.

  6. Don’t do it! Picture one of those infamous attorney billboards, not sitting on the interstate, BUT on Ridge Avenue. “Been in a car wreck?” And the sleazy attorney’s finger points at you, “Call ++++++++”. Once done, there’s no going back

  7. I am opposed and agree with all of the above comments. Surely the govt can trim the budget rather than resorting to billboards.

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