Archive for Friday, August 5, 2005

Judge upholds sign code

Court rejects business owner’s challenge of fine

August 5, 2005


Businesses wanting to attract returning students or anybody else with a banner or temporary sign need to get a city permit to do so.

Bill Muggy, owner of the Jayhawk Bookstore, has the $50 fine to prove it.

Muggy, who has owned the store since 1977, filed the first legal challenge to the city's long-standing temporary sign code, protesting that city inspectors should not have fined him for hanging a simple banner advertising a book buy-back special in May. Muggy said the city's sign code lacked the necessary specificity to be enforceable and was discriminatory because it only was enforced when complaints were made.

"Just because somebody has a wild hair and makes a complaint, the city does something. If nobody complains, the city doesn't do anything," said Muggy, who said he had hung a similar banner most of his years in business.

Municipal Court Judge Randy McGrath, though, ruled Thursday that the city was clearly within its rights to enforce the ordinance.

"It probably is a complaint driven thing," McGrath said. "But that's the way it is with an ordinance like disturbing the peace too. There's probably a lot of disturbing the peace violations with loud stereos that aren't addressed if there isn't a complaint. That's just the way it is."

City staff members also testified Thursday that it is their policy to give violators an opportunity to simply remove the sign without receiving a ticket. Barry Walthall, the city's codes enforcement manager, testified that Muggy was given a chance to fix the violation but instead repeatedly told one of Walthall's inspectors to leave the property. Walthall went to the store later that afternoon to also give Muggy a chance to remove the sign without a ticket, but Muggy walked away from Walthall and even refused to give his name.

Where to go

Businesses can obtain the necessary permit by contacting the Neighborhood Resources Department at Riverfront Plaza, Suite 110, or via telephone at 832-7700.

At that point, Walthall said he called the Lawrence Police Department, which sent two officers who told Muggy that he needed to give necessary information so a citation could be written.

Walthall also said that the small book buy-back banner was not what generated the complaint. He said his office responded because the store had an approximately 15-foot-long trailer parked in front of the store giving away Pepsi. Walthall said there was concern the trailer was blocking the sidewalk.

Other city officials Thursday defended the need for the city to regulate banners and other temporary signs. David Corliss, the city's director of legal services, said if signs were improperly placed they could create safety concerns by blocking a motorist or pedestrian's vision. And he said the city also had the right to protect the community's aesthetics.

"The city of Lawrence takes great pride in how it looks and one of the elements in that is our sign code," Corliss said.

Businesses can obtain the necessary permit by contacting the Neighborhood Resources Department at Riverfront Plaza, Suite 110, or via telephone at 832-7700.


erichaar 12 years, 9 months ago

This is an example of big, intrusive government.

cowboy 12 years, 9 months ago

note to Barry , find something of value to do on the city payroll !

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