Downers Grove Village Council debates electronic message boards


Paul Szmanda

The Downers Grove Village Council convenes for its March 3, 2020, meeting.

At its Tuesday, March 3 meeting, the Downers Grove Village Council debated whether or not to permit the use of off-premise electronic message board signs outside of the Shop-&-Save at 7221 Lemont Road.
The petition for the permit is being requested by Volta, an electric vehicle (EV) charging station supplier. In 2019 the company installed four EV charging stations at the Downers Park Plaza. After the installation, inspectors identified that the message boards adjoining the charging station violated two village ordinances that prohibit signs with changeable electronic messages and that prohibit off-premise signs.
Two spokeswomen spoke on behalf of the company in saying that the message boards were crucial to the maintenance of the charging stations on the premise, as Volta provides free power to customers with EVs and instead makes a profit on the advertisements.
When asked by the council what the fate of the charging stations would be if Volta’s petition is rejected, the spokeswomen gave a simple answer. “We will remove them,” they said.
One of the arguments that a number of councilmembers and villagers in the audience mentioned was the economic opportunity that the charging stations could bring.
Joe Riley is a Downers Grove resident and an EV owner. He confessed that his shopping habits changed after he bought his EV.
“The superchargers are at the Meijer’s over in Bolingbrook. You’re sitting there for 30 minutes to charge your car up to full — what are you going to do? We now shop at Meijer’s. It’s a regular part of my family’s routine,” Riley said.
Commissioner Greg Hose noted that the issue is not about these four particular message boards but rather about, what he sees as, the precedent that the approval of Volta’s petition would set.
“We’re going to see requests for these all over the place,” Hose said.
Mayor Bob Barnett acknowledged that the village has received and rejected similar petitions since the ordinance was first implemented 17 years ago.
“I would be shocked if we didn’t almost immediately hear from the school districts,” Barnett said.
Nonetheless, Barnett said that there should be other factors which the council considers when making its decision.
“I just don’t want to hang our hat on, ‘I don’t want to be asked by somebody else because we’ve got a long-standing rule,” Barnett said.
The council is scheduled to vote on the petition at next week’s meeting.