Business-friendly. No really

Opinion: Columns

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Monday night, Oak Park's village board took up two business-related issues. That the two unrelated issues were consciously packaged together is progress in itself. The rationale was that a fair number of business people would be in chambers to discuss building code changes and might want to be heard on unpopular changes to the business-sign regulation ordinance.

Normally we would not predict the outcomes of a village board debate and we'll stop somewhat short of that today since our deadline for editorials is three hours before the board gathers.

But reading the tea leaves suggests to us that the village board has shifted its thinking toward actually being business-friendly rather than just sincerely believing that they were always business-friendly. In the past it was enough to say, "We believe in independent stores. Heck, we even patronize them." But then the board would pass a revision to the sign ordinance that eventually would require hundreds of businesses to remove or shrink or remake their signage at costs ranging from hundreds into many thousands.

In a perfect world, all the signs would match in relative size and style. It's a worthy goal, maybe. But in a moment when businesses are struggling against a recession and against Amazon, it is perceived as a kick in the teeth.

Hard to argue that water sprinklers aren't good, that more sprinklers in smaller spaces aren't better. And more is what the long-discussed building code revisions call for. But if you're a landlord with a 6,000-square-foot existing space in Oak Park, the burden of adding sprinklers is likely to make your rents non-competitive with Berwyn, Forest Park or Chicago.

Village President Anan Abu-Taleb plainly gets this. And we think the village board is getting there, too.

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