Signs of changing times, or not

city-hallA long fight on whether to allow schools and churches to have digital signs in residential areas will go on for at least another week.

After brisk debate, the city plans and zoning committee agreed Wednesday to hold the measure until next week.

According to a staff report:

The latest battle over the issue began last year after committee chair councilman Ed Ford introduced a modest proposal: He wanted to make it legal for the North Kansas City School District to keep three illegal digital signs it mistakenly put on property within the city.

But then the Kansas City School District and others wanted the signs and so did churches.

Many neighbors south of the river did not want them.

There were talks and various proposals that would allow limited numbers of the signs.

The Kansas City School District and others objected to a proposal that would restrict them to institutions of at least 30 acres or on lots of 15 acres if adjacent to major arterial streets.

On Wednesday, Ford suggested starting over: Eliminate all restrictions and make it so the city council must approve all such signs on a case-by-case basis.

Councilman John Sharp would have none of that. He wanted the ordinance to stay the same but allow North Kansas City to keep its three errant signs.

South of the river, Sharp said, you “could have digital signs a very short distance from a residential home across the street.”

Ford said that people in the northland liked the signs and “they give us a lot of information about things that are going on in our kids’ schools.”

Allan Markley, superintendent of the Raytown School District, said they have seven schools in Kansas City that want the signs.

As for who approves them, maybe the city should just step aside, he said. “Why not leave it up to the school districts?”

Tiffany Moore, president of the Armour Hills neighborhood association, said she believes compromise is possible.

There is a good reason to replace some ugly and crumbling standing signs with digital ones, she said, but not all of them. City staff reports that there are 32 schools and churches in the city over 15 acres in size, if that were the limit.

”It’s not about making lot sizes so small that everyone gets (a digital sign),” Moore said.

Ford’s idea of setting no limits and making neighborhoods show up to fight each sign is a non-starter, she said.

“Eventually we’ll get worn out,” she said. Does the city want consensus or “want us to get worn out,” she asked.

Schools on two-lane streets in residential areas have little use for the signs anyway since so few people would see them, she said.

Ford said the committee will seek a solution somewhere between his no limits suggestion and Sharp’s status quo position.

Anyone with suggestions or ideas can email them to him, he said.


  1. Joe Montanari says:

    The North Kansas City School District “mistakenly” put up three illegal signs. Now they want to make the signs legal by changing the law. Isn’t that nice and convenient? If anyone else put up an illegal sign, the city would make them take it down.
    Many people, including business owners, private citizens, neighborhood leaders, and city staff put forth a lot of effort to craft the current sign law, which reduces the amount of visual pollution in our beautiful city. The North Kansas City School Board wants the city to allow their illegal signs, and now the Kansas City MO School District wants signs too. First of all, I would ask what kind of message this sends to the folks who worked so hard to craft the original sign ordinance, and to the citizens and taxpayers who get to pay for the signs. Then I would ask what kind of message it sends to the students–that its OK to break the law? Finally, I would suggest that both school districts pay more attention to teaching the children, so that, perhaps they will be able to read the signs.

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