Some want more digital signs in KC while others say they are too distracting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Local billboard companies want more digital signs in Kansas City but not everyone’s on board.

Right now, digital billboards aren’t allowed in KCMO, with the exception of a few that were grandfathered in, but a new ordinance would change that.

Billboards along Interstate 35 are some of the most visible in the city and they could soon go digital.

The advertisement companies behind them say the proposed ordinance is a trade-off. However, that’s not how everyone sees it.

Carol Winterowd and her husband KB were instrumental in getting a 2007 ordinance, banning digital billboards from Kansas City pushed through council.

"It took three years and two city councils and two mayors to finally get a strong billboard ordinance," Winterowd said.

Twelve years later and they're now fighting to keep that restriction in place.

"It is a good ordinance. It is used by other cities as an ideal ordinance."

A new ordinance currently being considered by the planning commission would allow existing static billboards to be converted into digital billboards.

"Digital is the worst of any billboards because they're gaudy, ugly. They change every 10 seconds with advertising. They're an energy hog and we don't need them."

The digital signs would be limited to highways they'd have to be at least 250 feet from a residential unit and companies would only be allowed to have up to 11 of them.

The trade-off?

Billboard companies will take down seven square feet of a static billboard for every one square foot of digital space gained.

"It's a sign reduction ordinance, so the goal here is to reduce the number of outdoor advertising signs that we have in the city."

Roxsen Koch is an attorney representing Outfront Media, an outdoor media company that anticipates removing 300 existing billboards in exchange for nine digital boards.

"I think that what you currently have is there is no way to get rid of the existing signs, so a lot of people see that many of the signs in the neighborhoods as a blighting influence and they can be an impediment to future development," Kock said.

The Winterowds' and about 30 other people who were at a neighborhood meeting Monday tonight worry digital billboards will bring more distractions and unnecessary light.

There's also concern that advertisers could use the technology intrusively.

"Digital is good to a certain extent and then when it invades your privacy as you’re driving along the road, it’s a bad thing."

The planning commission will hold a hearing about this ordinance next Tuesday, July 16. It will then go before the council to decide whether to pass it or not.

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