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Riverside Chat: City to add ordinance about street names

Sterling has no formal code

If you drive, walk or bike anywhere in Sterling or Rock Falls, chances are you look at the street signs to help you get where you’re going.

Other than a few, like Verio Court or Sanborn Street, they’re all pretty standard, which is a good thing, especially for those somewhat new to town, like I happen to be.

At its Aug. 20 meeting, the Rock Falls City Council approved, on first reading, an ordinance determining how streets can be named and numbered. The ordinance will be on the agenda for the Sept. 3 meeting for the final reading.

The fact that the ordinance is on the agenda isn’t really news. It’s simply clarifying the guidelines for the future, said Mark Searing, the city’s building inspector.

There was a time when the post office, the city and the county gave out some addresses, Searing said. But since that responsibility has been taken over by the city, long ago, there can be a uniform system in place for clarity.

According to the ordinance, “[street] names should be pleasant-sounding, appropriate, easy to read ... and should add to the pride of home ownership and entrepreneurial activity.”

The ordinance also states that streets in the same neighborhood or subdivision, whenever possible, should be “related to identifiable local landmarks, historic events, or themes.”

There’s a Bloody Gulch Road in Dixon, named after a murder in the 1800s, which one can assume probably was quite bloody.

The Rock Falls ordinance prohibits any “frivolous, complicated or undesirable names,” which is a part of the ordinance as important as that part saying what streets can be named.

When I lived in Knoxville, Tenn., I lived on Central Avenue Pike, not Central Avenue or Central Pike. When I lived in Ormond Beach, Fla., I lived on Lakebridge Plaza Drive, which became more complicated when it switched to Lake Bridge Drive after crossing a street.

It’s complicated street names like those that this ordinance hopefully would prevent from becoming part of the city.

Sterling has no formal code to address the issue, City Manager Scott Shumard said in an email.

“What the building department has generally done is have the streets named on the final plats to match the existing alphanumeric pattern,” he said. “The exceptions are generally roads constructed before becoming part of the city or those in planned unit developments.” 

Take a quick look at a map and it becomes clear Rock Falls, as well as Sterling, has a lot of numbered streets: First Avenue, Second Avenue, Third Street and Fourth Street and so on.

As slightly boring as this may be, it’s better than having creative street names that are confusing.

Sauk Valley Media reporter Matt Mencarini covers government and happenings in Sterling and Rock Falls. He can be reached at or at 815-625-3600, ext. 529.

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