Westerfield Drive residents who feared they would have to live with a new Fannie May store sign shining into their living room windows can breathe easy, now that the Wilmette village board has turned down the store’s sign request.
Trustees who met June 14 unanimously agreed to reject the proposal, which would have allowed Fannie May, 1515 Sheridan Road in Plaza del Lago, to put up a new awning and new wall sign on the south face of its building.
In doing so, they agreed with Westerfield neighbors who insisted the sign would not only erode their quality of life with its commercial feel, but would also be almost impossible to see from the very road on which it was supposed to attract attention.
Trustees told Plaza representative Augie Moss that their support for Fannie May and the shopping center couldn’t blind them to that, or to the zoning precedent that allowing a south-face sign might prove to be.
“I can’t, for the life of me, see why you’re pressing forward with this,” Trustee Mike Basil said.
“I’m one of your biggest cheerleaders. I’m really sympathetic to the idea that we in government shouldn’t be up here telling you how to run your business.
“But there’s no way anyone will see the sign.”
Fannie May operators and the owners of Plaza del Lago asked Wilmette to amend the shopping center’s sign regulations earlier this year. The village’s appearance review commission reviewed the case and in April recommended that the village board approve the change.
Fannie May and plaza representatives had said that they needed the sign to boost the business’s Sheridan Road visibility. Village trustees rejected the claim last week; some told Moss that they had driven past Plaza del Lago to check the potential location, and, like neighbor Rolf Stadheim, had found it wanting.
Stadheim told trustees he drove south on Sheridan Road past Fannie May, and “if you turned your head at the right time, and managed to avoid an accident, you might see it for a second. If your were going north, you might possibly see it for a millisecond as you went through the (traffic light at Sheridan and the plaza), but from Sheridan Road, nobody’s going to see this.”
Trustee Alan Swanson agreed: “You can’t see it from the south side. What that tells me is that there really isn’t a need for a sign on the south face. I just don’t see the rationale.”
He also noted that the store doesn’t even have a customer door in the south wall, which further limits the sign’s customer visibility.
During the appearance review process, Fannie May officials agreed to change the type of illumination they planned for the sign, which Moss told board members showed the store’s willingness to compromise with neighbors. The sign could stay lit until midnight or until Fannie May closed, according to Economic Development Director John Adler.
Moss insisted that his family, which owns Plaza del Lago would not ask for anything that would damage the center’s reputation. Following a question from Trustee Bob Bielinski, he said he did not believe any other Plaza business would ask for south-facing signs, because of the layout of the center.