A billboard on the patch of land at near the Eisenhower Expressway exit ramp at Desplaines Avenue, which was at the center of a 2006 lawsuit, is getting a new owner, which is seeking permission to add a second digital billboard.
In 2002, Chicago-based J&B Signs, which owned the billboard at 723 Desplaines Ave. since 1986, set up the I290 at DesPlaines LLC to act as the owner, which leased the property back to the company. In 2006, it added a digital billboard, which the village objected to. The sign company sued and, as part of the eventual legal settlement, the Forest Park Village Council must approve any changes in ownership.
During its Aug. 22 meeting, the village council allowed the LLC to change the tenant to Clear Channel outdoor billboard advertising company. Village Attorney Brian Baugh said this is just a prelude to J&B selling the billboard to the company outright, which the village will need to approve separately. He said the deal is expected to be completed “within the next couple of weeks.”
Any changes to the billboards on the highway require permits from both the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the local municipality. In 2005, J&B set out to add a digital billboard — a relatively new technology at the time — below the existing billboard. It obtained the IDOT permit in late 2005, and, according to the lawsuit, it got “written and verbal authorizations” on Jan. 24, 2006. Over the next month, it built the sign and on Feb. 24, turned it on.
The lawsuit states that, while the village took no issue with the sign in March, on April 2, 2006, village employees turned off the sign and posted a stop-work order.
While the lawsuit doesn’t mention it, the Review reported that, in late June 2006, J&B went before the Forest Park Zoning Board of Appeals to get permission to operate a digital sign. The zoning board recommended denying the request, saying they had issues with the design and worried that it would distract the drivers. The village council concurred with the recommendation during its July 10, 2006 meeting, and the employee sent a letter ordering J&B to remove the digital billboard “immediately.”
On July 28, 2006, the sign company sued the village, claiming that the village had no right to shut down the billboard and demanded damages for potentially causing it to lose “at least $17,000 a month” in advertising revenue.
On March 10, 2008, the two sides reached a settlement. The village agreed to let J&B put up a digital billboard facing west, on the other side of the existing billboard. The sign company agreed to let the village use the billboard for public service announcements for up to a total of seven hours a month, with each ad running up to seven consecutive days. The settlement would remain in force for any future site tenant and owner, and the village council must approve any changes to the lease except the rental payment amount and the lease length.
During the Aug. 22 meeting, the village council simply approved changing the leasee from J&B to Clear Channel.
“The only action tonight is concerning the new lease between the current owner and Clear Channel,” Baugh said. “Nothing is changing on the billboard, nothing is being given away.”
But, he added, “Clear Channel has indicated that once the deal occurs, they’ll be back for a second digital” billboard.
Baugh emphasized it would require approval from the Planning and Zoning Board and the village council.
The Review reached out to Clear Channel for comment.