By Dawn Bormann
Mission will begin a commercial sign inventory this summer as it takes a more proactive approach toward illegal signs – especially temporary ones – within the city.
Staff will create a database of every commercial sign and identify how many and what type of sign code violations exist. After the sign ordinance is evaluated for its strengths and weaknesses, the City Council could be asked to make changes possibly by this fall.
The inventory comes none too soon for some who have complained that Mission has been too lax on temporary signs that distract from the city’s massive infrastructure investment.
“It’s kind of rivaling Juarez, Mexico at times,” said Cynthia Schoenfeld, of Countryside.
After years of overlooking the temporary signs, Schoenfeld voiced her concerns last week at a Mission City Council meeting. She noted that the temporary signs tend to be more pronounced along the eastern sections of Johnson Drive.
“It’s not consistent with what Mission has done,” she said. “We have put in new curbs. We have new businesses going in. And we’re becoming a destination, in my opinion, of shopping much like downtown Overland Park or Brookside.”
But the signs distract from it all.
“It’s downgrading all of the changes that we’ve done,” she said.
Mission city councilors did not disagree.
It turns out that Schoenfeld’s appearance was timely. City Administrator Laura Smith said the city has wanted to address temporary signs for a long time “but didn’t feel with all of the construction over the last 18 to 24 months it was the most prudent time to do so.”
The sign ordinance was discussed earlier this month by the Mission community development committee.
“Now that the Martway and Johnson Drive construction is complete, it is a good time to revisit this issue in a more systematic and proactive manner,” according to a report submitted to the committee.
Voluntary business compliance has not been effective, the report said.
“In 2012 staff began providing reminders of sign code requirements with the annual business license renewal process. It was an attempt to encourage voluntary compliance with the existing sign code, but we have seen very little improvement (compliance),” the report said.
As it stands, sign code enforcement is handled by the city planner. Much of that effort takes place on a complaint basis, but the city does conduct occasional sweeps during elections, tax season, after storms and during other seasonal events to address the problem.
Citations can be issued but fines can only be assessed by a municipal judge. That takes multiple hearings and significant staff resources. City staff said that it doesn’t always stop repeat offenders.
The audit and subsequent work to address code violations should result in a more proactive stance, city officials said. A community education component will be part of the process.