Tom Suffredin.

Evanstonians will not have any new billboards to look at as they drive or walk along city streets or ride trains through town.

City Council members on the Planning and Development Committee voted 5-2 last week to reject a measure proposed by Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) to permit new billboards as a special use in areas near the CTA and Metra tracks.

Suffredin’s proposal was a response to 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.

At the Planning and Development meeting Suffredin stressed that the ordinance change wouldn’t by itself approve any new billboards — that any applicant would have to go through a special use request process and get City Council approval for the new sign.

Melissa Wynne.

But Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) said she’s opposed to billboards and had heard recently from many residents of her ward who also oppose them.

The city’s Land Use Commission voted unanimously to oppose the billboard plan, with Chair Matt Rodgers saying the large signs would be “contrary to the character of the city.”

And Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) citied the LUC vote and comments from ward residents against the proposal as reasons for his opposition.

Two council members — Bobby Burns (5th) and Juan Geracaris (9th) — voted in favor of advancing the billboard issue to the full City Council.

A CTA train rolls past a billboard on Chicago Avenue north of Greenwood Street.

Burns said he could live with new billboards as long as they only faced the train tracks.

But he said he was concerned that, under U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the city would be unable to regulate the content of the signs.

The rejection of the proposal by the committee means it will not advance to the full City Council for consideration.

The handful of existing billboards along the Metra and CTA tracks — which face the adjoining roadway rather than the tracks — are grandfathered in since they were installed before the council decades ago barred the erection of new billboards in the city.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Please continue to limit or stop billboards. They are a visual pollution to the beautiful Evanston. I was appalled to see an advertisement on a cathedral in Europe on scaffolding. We should remove all billboards past and present. Keep Evanston Beautiful.

  2. The reasonable use of property by a property owner should not be restricted. A billboard on the back of a building, facing train tracks, that will never be seen by anyone on the public way is a reasonable use we should allow…and tax.

  3. I’d like to point out that it is residents that are riding the trains and get “an eyeful” of billboard so don’t put forth the argument no one living here sees them. Also there are plenty of condos and apartment buildings close to railroad tracks. Anyone living in one of those buildings will see the signs day after day after day. There are 2 sides to the train tracks not just the side of the building. Glad no new signs going up.

    1. I say let them put them up and in addition to the sales tax impose a tax on Profit margin of at least 25%

    2. Abbey, if you are directing your comment to me, I didn’t say nobody living in Evanston sees the billboards. I said they are not visible from the public way. The public way is sidewalks and streets where people can freely walk and drive. I also did not say there should be no standards for billboards.

  4. The billboards are an “eyesore”, but so are the empty storefronts in downtown Evanston, the aggressive panhandlers, and the planned porta-potty installations (for a start)…

    I surely hope that we keep our focus on these things as well. I keep hearing “Visit Downtown Evanston” commercials, but I compare what we’ve got to, say, downtown Wilmette and the difference is stark.

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