Roeland Park council opts to stick with sign prohibition despite state law; Kansas statute conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court ruling

Roe Boulevard cuts through the heart of the Roeland Park commercial district.
The right-of-way in Roeland Park is currently free of signs.

A state law that dictates cities cannot regulate the number of political signs on private property or “the unpaved right-of-way for city streets or county roads on private property during the 45-day period prior to any election” causes a conflict with Roeland Park’s sign ordinance.

It also appears to conflict with a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that signs cannot be limited based on content.

The Roeland Park discussion about the city’s sign ordinance came Tuesday evening after the council had first adjourned to closed session to talk about it. After the closed session, the council returned to discuss it in open meeting.

City Attorney Neil Shortlidge told the council that Roeland Park’s ordinance prohibits signs in the right-of-way (ROW) which is now in conflict with state law. To comply with state law, the city would need to change its ordinance to allow signs in the public ROW. But by following state law to allow political signs in the ROW, it would violate the court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution which prohibits content-based regulation.

The city’s prohibition on signs in the ROW is content neutral, Shortlidge said.

City Administrator Keith Moody asked the council if they wanted to comply with the state law or the federal court decision. Moody said he hated to see the city “open the door” for signs in the boulevard.

Mayor Joel Marquardt said he was more comfortable going with the city ordinance and not following state law. Council members agreed to stick with the current city law at present.