Northeast Johnson County communities differ on response to new state law governing political yard signs

Communities in Northeast Johnson County are not lockstep in following a new state law on political yard signs.
Communities in Northeast Johnson County are not lockstep in following a new state law on political yard signs.

A new state law that requires cities to allow political yard signs to be placed on the street right-of-way for 45 days before an election is receiving a mixed response in northeast Johnson County.

Prairie Village and Roeland Park are ignoring the new state measure that went into effect last summer and continuing to apply their local ordinances governing yard signs.

“The City Council provided clear direction to staff to enforce the regulations the city has adopted that prohibit signs in the right-of-way,” said Roeland Park City Administrator Keith Moody. “We view the law as unconstitutional.”

Prairie Village City Administrator Quinn Bennion also said his community is continuing to follow its municipal sign code “the way it is.”

And Merriam City Administrator Chris Engel said his city is going along with the new state law, but reluctantly.

“Our city ordinance allows no signs in the right-of-way and we have not changed it to conform to state law,” he said.

“We are trying to comply with state law, but we believe it violates the (U.S) Supreme Court ruling in terms of signs being content neutral.”

Kathy Axelson, Fairway city administrator, said her community is complying with the new state law. Mission also is following the new state law, said spokeswoman Emily Randel.

The unhappiness with the new state law on political yard signs is not limited to northeast Johnson County. Wichita and other communities across the state also have balked at the state’s new law taking away local control.

The state law states that “no city or county shall regulate or prohibit the placement of or the number of political signs on…the unpaved right-of-way for city streets…during the 45-day period prior to any election and the two-day period following an such election.”

It does allow cities to prohibit signs in areas that could block the view of drivers or cause other hazards.