By Bob Balgemann
It’s been eight years since there was a restaurant in the former Taco Bell building at 8638 N. Second St., near the Machesney Towne Center.
Now a Pita Pit is going in there and the owners want a new sign to accompany the change in occupancy. A couple of hurdles had to be overcome and that happened, with the village board expected to approve the variance to requirements in the commercial general zoning district at its June 19 meeting.
At issue were the sign being 15 feet tall – the maximum is 10 feet – and the sign stand not having a masonry base.
First stop for the request was the planning and zoning commission (P&Z) at its May 30 meeting. After discussion, commissioners voted 6-0 to recommend approval of the request.
Planning and Zoning Specialist Carrie Houston explained staff was recommending denial of the request because there was no hardship, or special condition, making it difficult to erect a sign that met current regulations. Also, the request only met three of six criteria needed for a variance to be granted.
However, she said staff recognized that the sign would be similar to others along the Illinois 251 corridor. In addition, the right of way was wide in that area, so the sign would be away from traffic. Staff determined the new sign would not be detrimental, or a danger, to the surroundings.
She concluded with this caution: There are six vacant lots in this area. If the variance is approved, other identical requests are likely to follow when those parcels are developed.
In testimony before P&Z sign contractor John Harder said this was a sign package that the Pita Pit franchise wished to pursue, and that the corporation had approved it.
The village’s community development director, James Richter II, explained there was

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