KC to crack down on illegal signs that seem to sprout everywhere

Maria King and Michael Stringer are sick of collecting all the junky signs illegally posted on telephone poles and in the public right of way in their Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood.

“It’s visual graffiti,” Stringer said of the “Rent to Own” and other advertising signs that litter the Northeast area. When he calls the companies to complain, he said, they just laugh and hang up.

Neighborhood leaders from the East Side and south Kansas City say they’re also frustrated about the signs — touting everything from super vitamins to tattoo parlors — sprouting on public property like weeds, despite a city law that prohibits them.

In the past, enforcement has been lax, and even when neighborhood leaders removed the signs, new ones reappeared days later.

On Wednesday, a City Council committee endorsed a measure to add teeth to the city rules and make prosecution easier. The full City Council will vote on the proposal April 12 and it would take effect 10 days later.

The ordinance makes clear that illegally placed signs constitute a nuisance and can be removed immediately. It also spells out that the person or company named on the sign will be presumed to have placed the sign and can be prosecuted and fined.

The fine for a first offense would be $20, in case people don’t realize the rules, but penalties for subsequent violations could range from $20 to $1,000 per sign.

Councilman Scott Taylor, co-sponsor of the ordinance, said a city sweep last fall yielded 3,000 illegal signs. Another sweep is planned April 17, before the new ordinance would take effect. Taylor said that after that, city enforcement should improve.

David Park, director of the Neighborhood and Community Services Department, said he doesn’t have sufficient staff to remove all the nuisance signs. But his department will train volunteer inspectors to assist in addressing the problem.

With the advent of the political season, Councilman Jim Glover said the city should also get tough with candidates who illegally place their yard signs in public medians and on other public property.

“They (yard signs) need to be swept regularly during campaigns, and candidates running for office should be told there will be consequences,” Glover said. “It’s not the best way to get votes.”