Roeland Park advances plan that would relax signage restrictions for non-profits, schools and churches

St. Agnes church in Roeland Park has been at the center of debate of the city's temporary sign ordinance.
St. Agnes church in Roeland Park has been at the center of debate of the city’s temporary sign ordinance.

By Holly Cook

Roeland Park schools and churches with multi-building campuses may see more relaxed guidelines on the amount of temporary signs allowed to advertise fundraisers, book fairs and other events if a proposal backed by Mayor Joel Marquardt gains council approval.

Currently a church or school with multiple buildings is allowed the same amount of signage as those with just one building. The updated ordinance, discussed during Monday’s workshop, would allow buildings with at least 2,000 square feet to display up to three signs.

During a January meeting Marquardt said he felt organizations with large campuses were disadvantaged by current sign restrictions.

Councilmembers agreed to forward the ordinance updates to the new business calendar for an upcoming council meeting.

The council also continued its discussion on the separate-but-related issue of updating the special events section of city code to accommodate St. Agnes Catholic Parish’s October display for abortion awareness month. The church’s display of roughly 40 small crosses violates current code which allows organizations to advertise special events by displaying up to three signs for four days.

This was the fifth time the issue has been brought before councilmembers since December.

The latest round of updates would allow an unlimited number of signs to be posted for up to 31 consecutive days for a maximum of 60 days per year. The entire event display could not exceed 500 square feet or 5 percent of the total square feet of the property, whichever is less.

City staff said attorneys representing Roeland Park and St. Agnes supported the proposed changes for temporary signage and special events signage.

However, during Monday’s meeting St. Agnes Attorney Jeanne Gorman said it sounded like city staff was interpreting the definition of a structure within the ordinance differently than what the church had thought. Gorman said she had interpreted the definition to mean the church and its schools could have events according to their own building structure.

“If that’s not the case then St. Agnes would ask for some kind of accommodation,” Gorman said.

Councilmember Tim Janssen suggested adjusting language so it only restricted signage to a percentage of the total square feet of the property. Marquardt questioned whether that allowance would grant too much signage space.

After a brief discussion with Gorman city staff suggested changing the language so signage restrictions would apply to addresses, instead of structures.

Janssen said the suggestion made sense and asked for a consensus to forward the issue to council. Enough councilmembers signaled their approval and the item was added to new business for an upcoming meeting.