‘It's Ugly': Residents Unhappy With Billboard in Chicago Neighborhood

A new digital billboard towers over Interstate 94 near the Belmont exit in Chicago and the people who live near its base are not happy with the view.

Tim Magner will see the back of the billboard every time he walks out of his house and heads north up his street.

“It’s ugly and it’s obtrusive,” Magner said.

Magner and other residents who live on or near North Sawyer Avenue in the Avondale neighobrhood said they had no chance to voice their concerns about the sign before it went up this week.

“A couple of weeks ago we got a note on our door that said, hey, this is happening,” Manger said.

A Chicago ordinance passed in 2012 gives the city the authorization to choose sign locations without the approval of city council members.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th, met with the Department of Finance in January to discuss the issue and also wrote a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Feb. 21 expressing his concerns that the billboard would obstruct views and negatively impact property values.

However, the city moved ahead with the sign construction. The digital billboard is expected to go live on March 9.

“If it were up to me, this billboard would not be on a residential street,” Ramirez-Rosa told NBC 5. “I will continue to support community residents as they explore every legal action possible to preserve their community.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance said the city understands the billboard is an important issue for the 35th Ward and its residents.

“Significant site planning was conducted for this digital billboard on the corner of Sawyer and Belmont, ensuring that is a single face sign directed toward the commercial thoroughfare,” said the city spokesperson.

But neigbors said the billboard seems out of place. They call it an “eyesore” and are concerned about any light coming from it and how it could impact their kids’ sleeping habits.

“It affects them when they go to school and therefore, their test scores, which is a huge indicator of how a city is doing,” said resident Melissa Gutierrez Kapheim.

There are currently 31 signs installed across Chicago as part of the city’s agreement with JCDecaux, LLC. According to the Department of Finance, the city has received approximately $35 million through 2017 in revenue from this program. The spokesperson said the signs are expected to generate $215 million over the lifetime of the agreement.

But neighbors said they want to be heard.

“We understand the city’s predicament, however, I don’t think any of the officials involved with rubber stamping what’s occurred here would like to see this sign at the end of the block where they live,” said neighbour Jim Saranteas. “It just doesn’t fit in this neighborhood.”

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