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Electronic Billboards Approved Despite Ald. Arena's Opposition

By Heather Cherone | December 7, 2013 9:04am
  The billboards are too close to homes — including a senior living complex,   Ald. John Arena (45th) said  .
Electronic Billboards Approved Despite Ald. Arena's Opposition
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GLADSTONE PARK — Despite Ald. John Arena's (45th) concerns that five electronic billboards will diminish the quality of life on the Far Northwest Side, state officials have issued permits for the massive signs.

The locations picked for the five signs along the Kennedy and Edens expressways are so close to residential areas that the 100-foot tall advertisements will lower property values and "negatively affect the quality of life," Arena said in a letter to Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider.

Officials said the billboards, approved a year ago by the Chicago City Council, are expected to generate $270 million for the city during the next 20 years — minus the cost of constructing the signs. Forty billboards are slated to be built throughout the city.

Kelley Quinn, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who championed the agreement, said the mayor's office worked with any alderman who offered an alternate site for a billboard "and helped us find locations that were feasible."

Arena has not worked with the mayor's office, Quinn said.

Arena, who was one of six aldermen to vote against the billboard agreement, has often been at odds with the mayor. The two have clashed on a variety of issues, including education and the city budget and police staffing.

Arena said he was most concerned about the billboard along the Kennedy Expressway at Menard Avenue — 300 feet from a senior apartment complex, and 200 feet from a single-family home.

This billboard — and the others — "violate the spirit of the regulations against billboards in residential areas" as well as federal highway advertising standards that prohibit billboards from being too close together and requiring them to be located in commercial areas, Arena wrote.

The digital ad, which will face north to catch the attention of drivers whizzing by on the Kennedy, will be visible from more than half of the 85 units in the Senior Suites at Jefferson Park, 5400 N. Northwest Highway, Arena said. 

Jae Miller, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said 26 of the 40 locations proposed by city officials have been approved by state officials, including another billboard three blocks away from senior apartment complex at Austin Avenue and the Kennedy Expressway.

State officials have also approved plans to build digital billboards at the Edens Expressway and Elston Avenue in Jefferson Park as well as two near the Kennedy and Edens split at Lamon and Wilson avenues and Lamon and Sunnyside avenues.