Mayor Maloney Joins Mayor Dave With His First Veto


Mayor Dave Schmidt exercised his first veto of City Council action in June 2009, little more than a month after being sworn in as mayor. At that time, nobody knew whether any previous Park Ridge mayor had ever vetoed City Council action.

And as of today, that remains the case.

But although it took Mayor Marty Maloney almost six months to find a Council action worth vetoing, last Monday (October 16) night he boldly went where only Schmidt had gone before: He vetoed the Council’s October 2, 2017 endorsement – by a vote of 4 (Alds. Joyce, Milissis, Wilkening and Shubert) to 3 (Alds. Moran, Melidosian and Mazzuca) – of a major variance from the City’s sign ordinance that would permit a new sign to be erected in front of the BP gas station at 1220 West Touhy Avenue that is more than double the size the sign ordinance allows.

That variance previously had been approved by the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals (the “ZBA”) at its August 24, 2017 meeting by a 4 (members Garrick Bunting, Rebecca Leslie, Linda Nagle and Steve Schilling) to 2 (Atul Karkhanis and Missy Langan) majority for reasons that are hardly clear from reading the meeting minutes.

The BP station sought the variance on the basis that forcing it to comply with the current sign ordinance that permits pole signs of “only” 32 square feet would leave it at a competitive disadvantage with the 91 square foot sign for the Shell station immediately east of it and with the 70 square foot sign in front of the Thornton’s station a half-block further east.

As we understand it, because both the Shell sign and the Thornton’s sign were in place before the ordinance reducing signage size was enacted, those other two signs were “grandfathered” as an exception to the size restriction. That’s pretty much the accepted practice when new ordinances of this type are enacted.

But that doesn’t explain why BP deserved a variance permitting it to erect a new sign of 70 square feet – more than double what the current sign ordinance allows. And, interestingly enough, ZBA member Missy Langan appeared before the Council to request that the ZBA’s action be disregarded.

Unfortunately, the only arguments made in support of the variance by the aldermen tended toward: (a) the ZBA has recommended it; and (b) it’s a reasonable accommodation for a local business.

As Maloney’s veto message points out, the general principle behind permitting existing non-conforming uses and structures – like the Shell and Thornton’s signs – to remain after ordinances are enacted or revised is the expectation that those newly-proscribed uses and structures will eventually come into compliance through the passage of time, wear & tear, and other such factors. Permitting new non-conforming uses and structures, therefore, not only makes a mockery of the new/revised ordinance but, also, effectively creates an “arms race of sign size and non-conforming use,” according to Maloney.

Exactly right, Mr. Mayor.

We have consistently argued that laws should either be enforced or eliminated. We also have consistently stated that City ordinances – especially zoning and sign codes – are not mere suggestions to be followed only if convenient, or if the wind is blowing a certain way. The ZBA members should know that. If they don’t, it’s up to the Council members to remind them of it rather than jump on the runaway ZBA bandwagon as it leaves the reservation.

Maloney’s first veto is a big step in defining the new mayor’s philosophy of City government now that he has a mayoralty of his own rather than being the good and faithful custodian of the last two years of “Mayor Dave’s” term. Fortunately for Park Ridge taxpayers, his use of the mayoral veto to try to correct a perceived wrong is right out of the “Mayor Dave” H.I.T.A. playbook.

On that basis alone this glass is more than half-full.

Now let’s see if the Council can fill up the rest of it by sustaining Maloney’s veto on November 6.

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