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Is It Marketing or an Eyesore?

A large Chesterfield store is breaking local sign laws. Is it good for the economy, or is it being a bad neighbor?

If you regularly drive around West County on weekends, you’ve seen them: dozens of signs stuck into the grassy area by the road. Often, they advertise a Halloween costume store or a liquidator that is moving hot tubs from a rented empty box store. But one Chesterfield store floods the area with the signs on a regular basis.

, which sells rugs, outdoor furniture, pool tables and home entertainment centers, will cover sections of West County with yard signs announcing a sale.

But, these signs are illegal. It’s illegal to put objects or signs on state, county and city roadways with only a few exceptions. Most city ordinances allow realtor “open house” signs for a few hours on Tuesdays and Sundays or garage sale signs, but that is about it. Commercial signs are also strictly controlled by West County cities and St. Louis County. Sign ordinances stop huge rotating, flashing signs from covering streets such as Olive Boulevard or Chesterfield Airport Road. Nobody wants a retail area near their home to look like the Las Vegas strip in the 1960s!

For some years, Amini's has been trying to attract weekend shoppers with illegal roadside signs. I called Arash Amini to talk about the signs; we played phone tag, but he hasn’t returned my most recent call.

Often, city code enforcement officers are off on the weekend, and police often don’t like taking over those duties.

Chesterfield’s code enforcement officer Curtis Krusie believes he has stopped the Amini's signs from popping up on Chesterfield roadsides.

“We have notified them it is illegal. I haven’t seen any lately,” Krusie said. “Recently, we have stopped them from using human signs on Chesterfield Airport Road in front of the store.”

In Ellisville, code enforcement officer Dave Taylor said the city has sent Amini a letter advising him the signs are in violation, and they have not seen them since.

“You would be covered in wall-to-wall signs if two or three other stores did the same thing at the same time,” Taylor said.

Capt. Gary Hoelzer of  Town and Country Police said he last saw a half dozen of the signs on a Highway 40 exit ramp to Ballas Road in late May. Hoelzer said the city has informed some merchants who put up signs they will be subject to court citations, but admitted that no citations have actually been issued.

Dave Fox, the code enforcement officer in Manchester, said the police issued citations to people putting up signs a year ago, and he has sent out cease-and-desist letters. But two weeks ago, Amini's had signs up along entrance ramps to Highway 141.

Fox said some merchants hire a service to put up the signs. This leaves police to decide who to cite: the merchant or the people putting up the signs?

This is a no-brainer. They both should be charged. It’s not that hard to catch the people putting them up. At 4 a.m., they stop their cars, turn their flashers on, get out and plant a dozen signs in the ground. Local police don’t need $10,000 worth of special equipment to find them.

It is grossly unfair to merchants who obey the sign laws to have one big retailer break them. Warnings just tell city code violators that the worst that will happen to them is a warning. Cities need to issue a citation for every location the signs are found, and the signs need to be seized.

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