Don't weaken KC's billboard law
The Kansas City Star
Kansas City’s stricter billboard law, passed five years ago, is serving the public well.
Tougher rules have halted construction of new signs and forced the billboard industry to take better care of its current ones. The blight caused by large, poorly maintained billboards in residential areas and along highways has been reduced.
City officials should resist any new attempts to weaken the ordinance, especially when it comes to doing favors for billboard owners who complain about the ordinance and ask for selective help.
Just last week the City Plan Commission properly rejected a request to relocate a sign rather than remove it, as is required by city ordinances.
However, that proposal is still alive and is scheduled to be heard today by a City Council committee. The elected officials should follow the citizens planning group and not alter the ordinance.
The city’s rules weren’t passed on a whim. Citizens groups and enlightened parts of the business community spent the better part of three years trying to persuade the council to approve a more stringent billboard law. The new one, endorsed in 2007, wasn’t close to being the strongest in the nation, partly because it didn’t require removing existing billboards.
Still, the ordinance was much better than the lenient law in effect at the time. It also continued to allow businesses to get their messages across on existing billboards.
The billboard industry mounted a referendum campaign to halt enforcement of the 2007 ordinance. But not enough signatures were collected, and that effort died.
Since then, some billboard owners have asked for special exemptions to the law. At least one has been granted, unfortunately, setting the stage for even more demands to dilute the ordinance.
Kansas City officials have properly cracked down on billboard blight to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods. Carving out more special exemptions would set a bad precedent and weaken a popular law.