City of Tonganoxie cites West Haven Baptist Church’s new sign for code violation
The Tonganoxie City Council apparently will decide if the West Haven Baptist Church will continue operating its new sign as it has since it was installed earlier this month.
Tonganoxie city codes inspector Mark Lee sent the church a letter dated Aug. 18 stating the sign is not in compliance with the Tonganoxie Planning Commission ruling of Jan. 6. That ruling allowed the sign with the stipulations that the height of the sign not be increased from one there previously and that it comply with Tonganoxie zoning regulations section 25, subsection 25-021 D, which states electronic message signs “shall not include animation, or include messages that are animated, moving, flashing, blinking, reflecting, revolving and/or rotating.”
The decision was made on the recommendation of city planner Kevin Kokes, who reviewed the church’s application and concluded the sign would be a changeable sign by city zoning ordinance and an attention-getting device. He wrote: “In accordance with Zoning Ordinance Section 25-021.j.2 (Prohibited Signs and Devices), changeable copy signs or electronic graphic signs greater than 3 square feet in area are prohibited unless specifically reviewed and approved by the Planning Commission. The proposed electronic message board is allowed (with approval) since it is associated with a church, but must be approved by the Planning Commission since the requested size exceeds 3 square feet in area.”
City Clerk Kathy Bard said she asked Lee to inspect the sign after she received several complaints from the public about the sign and its potential to distract drivers on U.S. Highway 24-40.
The planning commission rewrote the city’s sign ordinance, which the city council later approved, out of concern that distracting signs such as the electronic ones along U.S. 24-40 in Basehor would appear near roads and streets in Tonganoxie, Bard said.
The planning commission has since denied requests from Sonic and Tonganoxie Middle School to install electronic signs, Bard said. The Community National Bank sign and one at First State Bank and Trust were already in place when the ordinance was approved and are therefore grandfathered in, she said.
Mike Bronson, pastor at West Haven Baptist Church, said the church thought the planning commission did approve the sign request in January. It plans to appeal the decision to the city council, he said.
He has heard positive comments from the community about the sign from those who thought it added to and beautified the community, Bronson said.
The issue in his opinion is the city’s confusing and contradictory sign ordinances, Bronson said.
The church applied for an electronic message board such as those at First State Bank and Community National Bank, Bronson said. Lee’s letter cites 25-021 D but doesn’t accurately quote that section, he said. That section does require planning commission approval of signs that display “moving, flashing, blinking, reflecting, revolving and/or rotating” but that passage is preceding the word animated.
The West Haven Baptist Church sign is not an animated sign as defined elsewhere in city codes but rather an electronic message board, Bronson said. That is what the church requested approval of from the planning commission, and such a sign is defined in the city sign code as using “changing lights to form a sign message(s) or symbols that are electronically programmed and can be modified by electronic processes.”
Bronson said it would be impossible to operate an electronic message board sign without lights moving or blinking, which was obvious by the city’s ordinance when it says “changing lights” that are “electronically programmed.”
The church will take its case to the city council, although Bronson said the church was uncertain about the process.