Downtown business looks for new sign that can fit into historic area

Code variances or conditional use permits sought by businesses sometimes turn into contentious issues for the Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission, especially in the city’s historic downtown district.

But it was relatively smooth sailing Wednesday night when the commission gave a positive recommendation for a law firm looking for a sign variance for its Washington Street building.

“I do want to thank you for keeping the integrity of the building,” Commission Chairwoman Patty Gustin said after the commission approved Roscich and Martel’s request for a non-conforming sign on the north side of the building at 214 S. Washington St.

The law firm has occupied the second floor of the building since 1996, and was looking for a way to advertise its presence without detracting from the historic nature of the building, which dates back to 1897.

The front of the structure still has original masonry and architectural elements that the firm thought would be spoiled by placing a sign on the front of the building. Moreover, there are two large windows on the second floor that would make putting a sign there awkward.

“There’s really no way to put a sign on the front of that building and not hurt it aesthetically,” David Johnson, designer of the proposed sign, told the commission.

But city code mandates that signs be placed on a wall facing the public way, on the part of the building occupied by the business doing the advertising, and not to exceed a 40 square feet in area.

With the building directly north of 214 S. Washington only one story, Roscich and Martel’s proposed sign would be clearly visible to drivers and pedestrians from the north end.

Most of the commissioners had no problem with the variance.

“It’s a great idea to have it on the side of the building,” commission member Sean Hastings said.

Commission member Kevin Coyne agreed, saying that he “wouldn’t want to see some kind of overly creative attempt” at placing a sign on the front of the building.

The proposal goes to the full City Council with a positive recommendation.