Planning Commission to vote on sign ordinance

Published 8:51 am Wednesday, April 1, 2015

After working for almost a year to revise the city’s sign ordinance, the Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission is ready to consider adopting an updated version of the regulations.

The commission is set to vote on the new sign ordinance adoption during the regular monthly meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

“This is a complete rewrite of the sign ordinance,” Elizabethton Planning Director Jon Hartman said. “There are changes throughout the ordinance and it really goes back to the overall aesthetic we would like to see in the city.”

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An ordinance committee of the planning commission worked for close to a year to draft the 23-page ordinance. The ordinance covers different types of signs, their usage, how to measure sign size, getting sign permits and enforcement for violations.

The committee worked carefully while working on the new ordinance to make sure the needs of the city were met, while the rights of the citizens and businesses were kept intact, Hartman said.

“We were careful to respect the rights of expression and advertisement,” he said. “We worked to balance those rights with achieving the pleasing aesthetics we want to see in the city.”

The planning commission hosted a public comment period to allow for input and suggestions on the ordinance changes. Citizens could submit their comments through the city’s website or Facebook page or during a special meeting held at City Hall.

“We received four comments,” Hartman said. “We gave an opportunity for the public to comment and we had little to no interaction. We take that as a sign we were moving in the right direction with the changes we were proposing.”

Some changes included in the redesigned ordinance are:

– Signs will be regulated by zone. Under the current ordinance, signs are regulated by use.

– The proposed sign ordinance includes “in-depth” information on calculating sign size and obtaining permits. This information is not included in the current ordinance.

– The new ordinance includes regulations for window signs, which are not included in the current ordinance.

– Standards for illuminated signs are also a part of the new ordinance. These are not a part of the current sign regulations.

– Human directional signs are prohibited in the updated version of the sign ordinance. This includes a person with an advertisement attached to them who spins signs, dances or wears costumes to attract customers to a business.

If the updated sign ordinance is approved, it will go before City Council for final approval. If the sign ordinance is adopted, the regulations will not apply to existing signs, Hartman said.

“This is only applicable to new signs or signs that are going to be replaced,” he said. “If a sign is already in place, it is fine. If someone needs a new sign or to replace a sign, or it is a new business, then it would fall under the new regulations if they are approved.”