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Faith Lutheran hopes for OK on LED sign

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 5:53 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 9:26 p.m. CDT

GENEVA – For years, when workers at Faith Lutheran Church had to change the sign’s message in winter, the letters would be frozen to the sign.

“You’d have to go up [a ladder] with a bucket of hot water –  in two feet of snow – and try to get them unstuck,” the Rev. Steve Okpisz said. “Water drips through [the sign we have], and that is what causes the letters to get stuck.”

On behalf of his church, at 1745 Kaneville Road, Okpisz filed a request to the city of Geneva for a text amendment to its sign ordinance to allow a light-emitting diode or LED sign for a nonresidential use by a religious institution or church in a residential zoning district.

The Geneva Plan Commission will hold a public hearing on the request at 7 p.m. today at the City Council chambers, 107 James St.

In his application, Okpisz noted Kaneville Road between State Street and Randall Road is wide and heavily traveled, with three church ministries, two private schools and nine businesses.

The LED section would be 13 square feet, well under the city’s 20-square-foot maximum, and he noted the LED sign will have a lifetime warranty so it would be the church’s last sign.

Neighbors on Kaneville Road also filed letters with the city in support of the church’s request.

City staff members have not made a recommendation, but they have recounted details of the city’s 2011 comprehensive sign ordinance, which does not allow graphics, logos or animated, flashing or scrolling on electronic signs. It also requires that messages can be changed no more than twice a day.

When the city added provisions to allow for electronic message board signs, officials were concerned about excessive illumination being a distraction to drivers.

Faith Lutheran also noted in its application that Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Charles and St. Charles North High School are in residential areas and have LED signs.

Okpisz said he is hopeful the church’s request will be approved.

“On the ministry side, we will be able to change the sign quickly,” Okpisz said. “Wednesday for kids programs, Saturday prayer service and Sunday regular service.”

Also, with the newest technology, the sign’s messages could be changed wirelessly and programmed up to three months in advance.

“So we would be able to plan Christmas in October,” Okpisz said. “And during the season when we’re busy decorating and Christmas caroling, we won’t have to worry about changing the sign.”

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