Village of Gurnee--East Grand Design Guideline Overlay



Uniformity of lighting elements is encouraged. Decorative streetlights consistent with the decorative street light program in other areas of the village are encouraged. Uniformity or complementary design between these decorative streetlights and parking lot lights is appropriate. Lighting fixtures on the exterior of buildings should also reflect the design theme of the decorative streetlights where possible (See Figures 16 and 17).

Exterior building and parking lot lighting should be reworked, and should be brought into conformance with the Village's illumination ordinance (98-111).

All decorative lighting must include screening shields and dampers to avoid glare.

The initial importance of light is to create a visible, safe place. However, if chosen wisely, lighting can add aesthetic drama, paralleled by few other features.

Scale--The scale of the lighting features should be such that pedestrians have sight of their surroundings. Glare, projected onto other buildings, into the road or into the eyes of pedestrians and motorists shall not be allowed.

Tree lighting--Lighting can add aesthetically pleasing images to a building by backlighting trees with interesting branch formation or forelighting trees and projecting their image onto the wall of a building. Other than strings of lights for holiday type decorations, lights or fixtures are not to be located directly on a tree. Lighting mechanisms should be located outside the tree, and can lights that are flush with the ground are preferred. (See Figure 18).

The following items are required:

  • Non-glare shield
  • Low wattage bulb (25-40 W)
  • Opaque housing
  • Non-visible luminare

Safety--Lighting is a safety feature, and lit pathways are encouraged. By creating a lit walkway from the parking lot to the building's principal entrance, a safe and attractive feature is created (See Figures 19 and 20).


Building sign
  • Number of signs--One principal wall sign should be permitted on the front wall of the building or use. Corner buildings or uses may be permitted two (2) wall signs, one facing each street (See Figure 21 and 22).
  • Location--The sign should be mounted on the wall or be on an awning and shall be located above the main entrance to the building and shall not exceed the roofline of the portion of the building where the sign is to be attached.
  • Size--Signs may occupy no more than 70 percent or less of the storefront width and generally be centered. The maximum overall height (including all lines of copy and logo) should be three (3) feet and with limited exceptions an extension to a maximum of four (4) feet may be permitted (See Figure 23). A maximum size of one and a half (1 1/2) square feet of wall sign per one (1) lineal foot of building wall frontage, up to a maximum of 75 square feet, is permitted with exceptions requiring special use or variation approvals.
  • Content--The principal sign should be restricted to the store's name and logo.
  • Projection--Signs shall not extend more than 18" from the wall to which it is attached. Exceptions may be made for signs that are approved as part of the building decorations within any future Village-approved Building Façade Program.
  • Materials--Sign materials shall be consistent with the construction materials and architectural style of the building and any ground sign on the property (See Figure 24). Adjacent property styles should be kept in mind when considering sign material and form.
  • Colors--Natural, matte, brushed, patina-like surfaces are preferred. Polished, glossy, shiny, or reflective surfaces shall be avoided.
  • Illumination--Internal illumination is preferred and any exterior illumination shall only be as a part of a unified theme with a Village-approved Façade Improvement Program. Lighting levels for signs shall be subdued and should not be bright or garish. The lighting directly associated with a sign shall conform to the Village Ordinance number 98-111 Exterior Lighting Section. Clear or bright white (not opaque) backgrounds are discouraged.
  • Fixture to Building--To minimize damage from changing signs, especially if tenant turnover is high, the installation of a raceway to which channel letters can be attached is encouraged. Another alternative might be to use a box sign recessed into the face of the building that can be easily changed in the event of tenant turnover (See Figure 25).
  • Appearance--If facade fading has occurred where the sign box or letters are removed, then the facade must be re-finished to eliminate any appearance of the sign that has been removed.

Ground/Monument Signs

  • Number of signs--One sign shall be permitted per lot and two signs for a corner lot. If multiple buildings are to be located on a lot, additional signs may be allowed as part of a special use review process. Additional ground signs may be permitted provided the monument height and size of the combined total of all ground signs are less than the maximum permitted for a single sign subject to Special Use approval.
  • Location--Signs shall be located entirely within private property, shall not obstruct drivers' view, and are subject to the requirements of the setbacks and other requirements of Gurnee's Sign Ordinance. For corner lots the location of the signs should be oriented for viewing for one sign from each street; if the signs are to be oriented for viewing from the same street the separation between ground signs on the same lot must be a minimum of 200 feet.
  • Size--Signs shall be 8 feet or less in height, including the required landscaping around the base of all ground signs and provided the sign conforms to the requirements listed above. The landscaping around the base of the sign may include decorative earth berms; however the maximum height of the sign may not be increased and the height of the berming is included in the overall height measurement. Signs shall consist of no more than 2 faces and no more than 30 square feet per face (see section below for permitted content). In addition to the 30 square feet, 2 square feet may be used to identify the address of the shopping center or any other land use. Sign size shall consider the sign's functionality in the event of snow (See Figures 26 and 27).
  • Appearance--If the ground/monument sign background has faded (due to sun exposure or some other condition), marks may be noticeable when the sign box or letters are removed. If this occurs, the background must be re-finished to eliminate any appearance of the sign box or letters that have been removed.
  • Content--Ground signs are encouraged to only consist of the name and/or address of the business, shopping center, or other land use. In case of multi-users, reference to individual users is not encouraged if wall signs are also available. If uses are primarily internal to a building and opportunities for wall signs are not available, then listings of individual tenants may be possible through a special review process (See Figures 26 and 27).
  • Materials--Signs shall incorporate, in their base, compatible materials from the building. Landscaping around the base of the sign is required.
  • Exposed poles or support structures are prohibited and decorative screening in proportion to the size of the sign must be incorporated into a unified design theme.

Temporary Signs

For special occasions such as grand openings, special promotions or other similar special events, see the Village of Gurnee Sign Ordinance (86-27).

Prohibited Signs

The following signs are prohibited in this overlay district:

  • Billboard signs and/or Off Premise Advertising Signs
  • Flashing signs
  • Inflatable signs
  • Moving and Swinging signs
  • Portable signs
  • Noise emitting signs
  • Exposed Neon and LED light fixture signs on walls and on window signs

Please refer to the Village of Gurnee Sign Ordinance for complete provisions. All signs and hardware non-conforming to the design guidelines shall be removed upon new tenant occupancy.

Display Vehicle Area

The East Grand Gateway Overlay District limits the use of outside storage including the storage of vehicles or equipment for display for sale or lease, except as a special use when consistent with the Design Guidelines and other standards for a Special Use. The Design Guideline addresses the potential for the use of display pads to present various vehicle products to the public (See Figure 28). Vehicles that fall into this category include, but are not limited to, vehicles for sale, or lease, trucks and vans for sale or for rent and any other rentable machinery or equipment. The following paragraphs specify the requirements for display vehicle areas.

Numbers and Location Allowed--Maximum of 1 pad per 100 feet of lot frontage along Grand Avenue, or proportion of lot frontage along Grand Avenue. For a property with multiple uses, the use proposing a display vehicle area shall only include the frontage of the lot in proportion to the frontage of the building for the specific use to the total building frontage in proportion to the street frontage (See Figure 29). Display vehicle areas may be allowed along Grand Avenue only. If the property qualifies for more than one display pad, not more than one pad may be devoted to trucks or an item of equipment larger than a passenger vehicle. If the calculation for the number of Display Vehicle Areas results in a fraction then fractions of more than 3/4 (or 75%) may be rounded up.

Spacing--Display pads shall be located 10 linear feet apart from each other (or combined as part of a unified display with landscaping not to exceed 3 pads).

Setbacks--The setback of the vehicle display pad along Grand Avenue will range from 5 to 10 feet from the property line (See Figure 28). The setback from the property line to the pad on a side street will range from 10 to 20 feet (See Figure 28). For a pad located at a corner of a lot the pad must meet Village line-of-sight requirements (See Village Zoning Ordinance Articles for line-of-sight requirements).

Pad Dimensions--Pads are encouraged to be set as flush to grade as possible. Allowances for height above grade may range from 6 inches to 2 feet and 6 inches, depending on site or special use permit conditions. The diameter of the pad will range from 20 to 25 feet.

Pad Materials--The pad base will be poured concrete, pavers, or other approved hard surfaces. The pad surface must be decorative in some manner (e.g. scored concrete, decorative concrete, brick paver, etc.). The face of the pad will consist of decorative materials, and/or approved screening (See Figure 28).

Landscaping--To soften the display vehicle area, the Design Guidelines recommend planting trees, bushes, and ground covers around the pad. On the back of the pad, evergreen trees are recommended. Lower trees, including canopy and ornamental trees are required toward the rear sides of the pad (See Figure 28). Plantings for screening are encouraged along the pad with particular attention to the street sides of the pad including, but not limited to, perennials, annuals, and other low- plantings (See Figure 28B and C). This landscaping design will not only soften the bulky look of the pad but will also allow the subject on display to be viewed from East Grand Avenue and side roads.

Lighting--Lighting plans to illuminate and/or decorate the display area must be submitted as part of the Special Use Application and must comply with the Design Guidelines, Village Lighting Ordinance, and Special Use standards.

Signage--Specific plans for all signage and/or any attention attracting devices for the Displace Vehicles or Display Vehicle Pad Area must be submitted as part of the Special Use Application. Balloons, flags, banners, pennants, streamers or similar devices as further referenced in the Village Sign Ordinance are not permitted as special attraction devices. Open hoods, doors, windows, trunks and/or similar conditions as attention attracting condition are not permitted.

Display Contents--Only one approved vehicle or item of equipment may be placed upon a display pad. No other vehicles, equipment, apparatus, objects, or devices may be placed upon the pad or used in conjunction with the display pad, unless specifically approved as part of the Special Use Permit. Items, which serve to elevate the vehicle above the pad, are not permitted.

Landscaping and Hardscaping

Trees, bushes, and "street furniture" create a more comfortable, attractive shopping environment. They can be used to complement freestanding signs and soften or screen parking lots, drives, and other less desirable scenes. Where landscaping is an integral part of the design of a building facade, it may be included as an eligible cost under the Building Facade Program.
  • Landscape elements included in these criteria consist of softscape (planting and vegetation) and hardscape (rock groupings, pavers, lights, etc.).
  • Landscape plans shall consider the landscaping treatment on adjacent properties. Unity of design within the district can be achieved by repeating the use of plant material from property to property.
  • Plants that are indigenous to the area should be used. Introduction of exotic species is discouraged.
  • The use of combinations of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and trees is encouraged for a year-round effect. Line-of-sight issues should be considered when placing material in parking lot islands.
  • Screening of dumpsters and refuse areas is required. The use of durable, opaque materials, for enclosures as well as gates, is encouraged.

General Building Enhancements

  • Highlighting and enhancing principal entries of buildings using potted plants, terraces, and hanging baskets is strongly encouraged (See Figure 30).
  • Corners of buildings can be softened using decorative landscaping. Ornamental trees or shrubs are suggested (See Figure 31).
  • The use of pedestrian benches and other pedestrian amenities is encouraged. Their style should be in keeping with the style chosen for that property and surrounding property.

Intersection/Entrance Enhancement

  • Effective landscaping at the entrance of a property catches the attention of passing traffic, pedestrian and vehicular. Appropriate planting should be used to guide people to the site or building's entrance. An example of this technique is to correlate with the primary entrance of the building. A design aspect of the building, its architecture or color, can be repeated in the design of the entrance, creating an extension of the primary building closer to the passersby (See Figure 32).
  • A water feature, such as a fountain, can provide a sense of life and tranquility amongst a busy commercial district.
  • Increasing the width of the green area adjacent to Grand Avenue, by moving the sidewalk further away from Grand Avenue, and planting the area is strongly encouraged.
  • The use of stone to cover green areas is strongly discouraged.
  • In locations where plants will be susceptible to injury by pedestrians or motor traffic, curbs, tree guards or other devices should protect plantings.

Parking Lots

These Design Guidelines address older parking lot designs and conditions along East Grand Avenue. The Village is aware that improvements may be made on an incremental basis over time and, thus these guidelines are based on improving the existing conditions. In case of building a new parking lot and structures, preferred conditions are also provided.

A comprehensive program to eliminate obsolete parking lot stripings or markings that are bleeding through older repaving projects is encouraged. New parking lot striping and marking is appropriate.

Lot location--Future parking lots are discouraged from being located closer to the street than the primary building. A limited parking area to complement the primary parking lot and entrance to the building may be appropriate (See Figure 33).

Screening--Screening parking lots using trees and/or shrubs is strongly encouraged. Another encouraged technique is to screen the parking lot using an iron fence in conjunction with landscaping, with or without light features, or a lush row of hedges (See Figures 34 and 35).

Islands--Dispersing islands within a parking lot to add visual interest to the paved, bare area is strongly encouraged (See Figures 36 and 37). Pedestrians can use parking lot islands if they include suitable amenities such as benches and trash receptacles (See Figure 35 on the next page). If designed creatively, islands direct the viewer's eyes to the building's principal entrance.

Line-of-sight issues should be addressed and incorporated in screening and island plans.

Pathways--Pathways from the parking lot to the building's principal entrance is a necessary consideration. Decorating these pathways using brick pavers, landscaping or lighting techniques are encouraged (See Figure 19).


Bus Stops--Adding bus stops and benches to the district is encouraged. These elements should be inviting and comfortable to use for pedestrians, and attractive looking for drivers. Adding benches and bus stops to this commercial district will encourage a pedestrian flow, thus, increase the livelihood of the area and the economic activity of the business in the district vicinity.
  • Bus stops shall be sheltered and protected from uncomfortable weather conditions (i.e., snow, wind, and rain). In addition to a bench, a sheltered bus stop shall include a roof and four (4) walls.
  • Advertising on bus shelter shall be prohibited or limited to specific approvals by the Village Board.
  • Public art &endash; Businesses, located within a short proximity to this overlay district, are encouraged to sponsor public art in the form of bus stops, benches, water features, and other features that will improve public comfort. A small plaque, with the sponsor's name will be mounted on or in proximity to the public art (See Figures 39 and 40).
  • Landscaping around the bus stops and benches is encouraged. However, safety issues need to be considered and be part of the design.
  • Trash receptacles and bicycle racks should be installed in proximity to every bench and bus stop. The trash receptacles and bicycle racks should be made from the same materials and colors as the benches/ bus stops using an uniformed design (See Figures 41 and 42).

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The Village of Gurnee / Planning & Zoning / East Grand Design Guideline Overlay / Streetscapes / Last Revised 07/27/06