Roeland Park council votes 5-3 to change ordinance for St. Agnes display, but new vote required because of procedure issue

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 councilmembers’ 5-3 vote this week approving ordinance changes to accommodate St. Agnes Catholic Parish’s annual abortion awareness display was not valid and must be repeated at an upcoming meeting.

The version of the ordinance presented during Monday’s city council meeting included changes that had not been approved by the city’s Planning Commission. That meant it required a two-thirds majority vote from the governing body – 6 affirmative votes – to pass. To gain that majority Mayor Joel Marquardt would have needed to vote during the meeting (and vote in favor of the ordinance), which he did not.
Councilors must now decide whether to send the ordinance back to the Planning Commission or forge ahead with a vote of the full governing body, according to city staff.
Councilmembers Becky Fast, Sheri McNeil, Tim Janssen, Michael Rhoades and Ryan Kellerman voted in favor of amending the ordinance while Erin Thompson, Teresa Kelly and Michael Poppa voted against it.

The ordinance change would relax restrictions on special event signage for churches, schools and other non-profit organizations. St. Agnes’ annual display of roughly 40 small crosses violates current code, which allows three signs to be posted for up to four days.
Thompson said she was opposed to changing city code to accommodate any one event or organization.

“It’s not good policy to legislate to cater to one event,” Thompson said. “It is better policy to look at what’s best for our community and I just don’t think this is what’s best for our community.”

Thompson said she would rather leave the code as written and have the church request a special permit for their annual display.
Councilors debated the issue at length during five previous meetings and proposed several versions of the amended ordinance before finally settling on parameters allowing nonprofits to display an unlimited numbr of signs for up to 60 days per year. While the number of signs is not limited, the total event display cannot exceed 500 square feet or 5 percent of the total square feet of the property, whichever is less.

A final adjustment occurred during the March 6 workshop when councilors applied the signage restrictions to addresses instead of structures. This allows nonprofits with multi-building campuses, such as St. Agnes, to post a greater amount of signage