Neighborhoods protest changes to signs on buildings

A long-simmering dispute over a big, brightly lit sign flared Wednesday in a city council committee, with neighborhoods joining together to fight proposed changes.

The issue is the sign on the Burns & McDonnell national headquarters at 9400 Ward Parkway.

The bright light bothers folks who live nearby, who complained that the sign was illegal. They won a battle last summer at the Board of Zoning Adjustment, which denied a variance.

But the sign has stayed up and a pending city council ordinance would increase the allowed size of such signs from 20 square feet to 250 square feet.

The sign on Ward Parkway is 229 square feet, critics say, and about two dozen neighborhood people went to the meeting of the Planning and Zoning committee to tell councilmembers not to pass a bad law.

“Granting special rules for one company in my opinion is just cow town parochialism,” said Mark Dillon of Hyde Park.

The committee voted to hold the ordinance until May 15 after councilman John Sharp said he believed a compromise could be reached that would avoid the need for the ordinance.

But committee chair Ed Ford gave neighborhood leaders their say.

“When you have illumination on a side facing neighborhoods it takes away residential character,” said Carol Winterowd, president of the Center Planning and Development Council.

Craig Milde, an architect who lives at 9401 Wornall Road, said his front windows are about 1,200 feet from the bright sign that should have been taken down.

“The zoning ordinance and the rule of the BZA has not been enforced by the city of Kansas City,” he said.

Former city councilwoman Aggie Stackhaus said: “This is visual pollution, this is going backwards.”

Joseph Montanari, president of the West Plaza Neighborhood Association, and others said passing a law to allow such signs to be more than 12 times larger citywide would be bad for all neighborhoods.

“I think there are things that can be worked out but I hope you will not go forward and enact this ill-conceived ordinance,” he said.

A city official said there are few places in the city – Ward Parkway and West Plaza among them – that have such commercial buildings adjacent to housing.

Sharp said he believes the compromise would involve allowing the sign if the company does something about the bright lighting.

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