KC Plan Commission votes against ordinance to relax billboard regulations

An effort to relax part of Kansas City’s billboard regulations got a thumbs down today from the Kansas City Plan Commission.

The panel voted 7-0 to recommend denial of a proposed ordinance that would exempt certain billboards from restrictions that the City Council approved in 2007.

The issue surfaced because of a billboard that the Missouri Department of Transportation is acquiring on the west side of Interstate 435, just north of Interstate 70, due to road improvements on I-435.

Lamar Advertising wants to move the billboard to another location, but maintains that isn’t possible under the more stringent requirements of the city’s 2007 sign ordinance.

Bob Fessler, Lamar vice president and general manager, said it would cost MoDOT only $25,000 to move the sign, but it will cost $300,000 for the state to compensate Lamar for the loss of the sign. He said that, given the city’s restrictions, there is not another legal location available to the company within the city.

An ordinance introduced by Councilman Bill Skaggs would allow signs being relocated due to highway projects to be exempted from the city’s height, spacing and lighting restrictions.

But several neighborhood leaders, architectural experts and a representative of the Downtown Council urged the plan commission to reject Skaggs’s ordinance. They said they fought a hard battle to persuade the council to adopt the billboard restrictions, and the city shouldn’t take a step back now.

“Let’s not weaken a strong, comprehensive and very well written ordinance that protects the scenic beauty of our state,” said Carol Winterowd, president of an umbrella group of 25 home and neighborhood associations.

City staff had recommended denial of Skaggs’ ordinance, and the plan commission agreed.

The measure now goes before the Planning and Zoning Committee’s next meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.