KANSAS CITY — Antioch Community Church in Kansas City, Missouri, has won a
dispute over whether it violated an ordinance prohibiting
digital signs in residential areas.
The church is in a residential zone on
Antioch Road, a four-lane roadway between Interstate 35 and Vivion Road in North
Kansas City. Approximately 14,000 vehicles per day pass the church,
where the speed limit is 40 mph.
The church's small digital sign was installed in 2010 and cost $11,000. The sign is on the church’s existing brick monument sign, which sits perpendicular
to the road, and displays messages and other church information. The church's officials were not aware of the ordinance prohibiting digital signs
in residential zones when the sign was
The City Planning Commission cited the church with a
violation approximately a year after the sign went up in response to an anonymous
complaint it received.
“The church is zoned residential, and that was their
objection,” Harry Foockle, pastor of Antioch Community Church, told the St.
The church then sought a variance from the Board of Zoning
Adjustment of the city of Kansas City.
Antioch Community Church
argued that other locations along
Antioch Road had digital displays.
“The gas station down the street did indeed have a
digital sign,” Foockle said. “Further, several of the schools in North Kansas
City had digital signs up in residential areas. As far as I can tell, we were
the only ones asked to turn our sign off, which we did.”
The church also argued that the sign was the only way it could deliver its messages, and claimed that the residential zoning ordinance
violated the First Amendment by discriminating between commercial and
non-commercial speech. The board denied
Antioch Community Church's request for a variance to
the sign ordinance, saying it had no authority to grant one.
After an appeal was denied,
Antioch Community Church
sued and prevailed in the Clay County Circuit Court. The circuit court ordered the issuance of the
variance, but it did not address the church’s constitutional argument.
The circuit court found
that the variation was not substantial. It also found that
Board of Zoning
the authority to grant a variance to permit a digital component for a monument
sign based on a monument sign being defined as a “sign type” under the ordinance
for which a variance may be granted.
appealed, but the Missouri Court of Appeals in the Western District affirmed the circuit court’s decision in favor of the church.
In addition, the city did
not send an attorney to the Missouri Court of Appeals.
“The court made much
effort to have them present, but they were a no-show,” Foockle said.
The city of Kansas City asked the Missouri Court of Appeals to send the case to the Missouri Supreme Court, but that motion
“Since then we have been
using the sign,” Fookle said. “Quite frankly, it is not a large sign at all.”