Planning Commission to have workshop on sign ordinance

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission will meet to discuss the constitutionality of some portions of the proposed sign ordinance during a workshop session Thursday night.

The revised sign ordinance was presented to the Commission during its meeting in April. Instead of approving the new ordinance, the Commission voted to table the document until an attorney’s opinion could be given on certain sections.

During that meeting, Commissioner Melanie Sellers expressed concerns about the parts of the ordinance addressing political signs, portable and temporary signs and human directional signs. She thought the wording of the ordinance could lead to “selective enforcement” in some cases and that the tougher restrictions on political signs could be seen as limiting political speech.

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The regulations on political signs were more restrictive in residential sections than in commercial zones. In residential zones, the proposed ordinance limits residents to one 2-by-2-foot sign for each candidate.

“When we look at where we come from, the Watauga Association and the Overmountain Men and the ideals of liberty, and to tell people they can only have one sign in their yard,” Sellers said in the April meeting. “I don’t think it is lawful to limit prohibit political speech more than commercial speech. You do not have the most space in the residential zones, and that is where your private property owners are.”

During the workshop, the commission will hear from the city attorney, city planning director Jon Hartman said. The city has also requested a report from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service on the ordinance which could possibly be completed in time for the workshop.

After hearing from the legal council, commissioners will discuss the ordinance and any changes will be forwarded on to city staff to be worked into the document. Once the document has been revised, it will be brought back to the commission for consideration again in their June meeting.

“This will give them time to address all the issues they have with the ordinance and for us to work those issues out,” Hartman said.

The workshop is scheduled for after the commission meeting on Thursday at 6 p.m. The only item of business on the meeting agenda is approval of minutes from the April meeting, with the workshop to begin after that matter is approved.