New city ordinance imposes fines for illegal signs

A sweep last week by Kansas City crews and neighborhood volunteers yielded more than 4,300 illegally placed signs, which were collected and destroyed.

Those signs were picked up before penalties were in place under a new ordinance that takes effect today. The ordinance imposes fines for illegally placing signs on utility poles or in the public right of way.

While signs touting everything from junk cars to political candidates have been prohibited from the public right of way since 1967, the city has not had an effective enforcement tool, City Council members said. So they recently adopted an ordinance that makes clear such signs are a nuisance, they can be removed immediately, and the person or company named on the sign can be prosecuted.

The fine for a first offense is $20, but penalties for subsequent violations could range from $20 to $1,000 per sign.

Some people worried that the new ordinance could affect their garage sale or real estate open house signs, which are posted temporarily and quickly removed.

City officials said those signs preferably should always be placed on private property, and technically they should not be in the public right of way.

But the focus of the enforcement will be on people and companies that litter neighborhoods with multiple signs, which remain for days or weeks on telephone poles or in the right of way and become torn and trashy-looking.

The city will provide training to neighborhood volunteers so they know where the proper right-of-way boundaries are. Volunteers are advised not to remove signs before they receive that training.