New Kansas City law takes aim at junk signs

The Kansas City Council has unanimously approved a new law that takes aim at the neighborhood problem of “signs, signs, everywhere a sign.”

Fed up with cheap signs littering utility poles and the public right-of-way, the City Council approved new fines and tools for prosecutors to go after people and businesses advertising everything from houses to vitamins. The law also applies to political candidates’ yard signs.

“Cities around the country have dealt with this,” said Councilman Scott Wagner, a sponsor of the new law. In the metro area, Independence also recently beefed up its regulations against illegal signs.

Wagner noted that Baltimore levied $60,000 in fines against a Texas company that blanketed city blocks with illegal signs.

Kansas City’s new law says the fine for a first offense would be $20, but penalties for subsequent violations could range from $20 to $1,000 per sign. Residents who see illegal signs can also confiscate them.

Councilman Scott Taylor, a co-sponsor of the law, pointed out that Kansas City has prohibited signs from the public right-of-way since 1967 but enforcement has been lax and inconsistent.

Taylor said the law is not aimed at people hosting a garage sale or auction, who pick up their signs promptly after the event. But it is intended to deter “serial offenders” from inundating neighborhoods with signs that are never picked up and that deteriorate into trash and blight.

The new fines take effect April 23. Even before that, on Tuesday, the city plans a sweep of illegal signs, with the help of city residents.

The city will provide up to five blue trash bags per person at three locations: Northland Neighborhoods, 3015 Vivion Road; the Neighborhood Preservation Division, 4900 Swope Parkway, first floor; and Trailside Center, 9901 Holmes Road.

Residents can dispose of illegal signs in the blue bags and put them out on their regular trash day. The blue bags are just for signs, not for other trash.