City sign ordinance approved with three amendments

Published 11:54 am Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission now has a new sign ordinance most commissioners could agree to have sent to the Elizabethton City Council.

Commissioner Ron Kirby made the motion to approve the sign ordinance with three changes that were made during the Thursday meeting.

After being placed in front of the commission for a second time, the sign ordinance passed 4-1 with Melanie Sellers as the dissenting vote.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We’ve been working on this for about a year,” Kirby said.

The three amendments made before the final vote included striking regulation of human directional signs, a $40 fee reduction for temporary signs and reducing the amount of time the city has to approve or deny sign permit requests.

After discussion in a previous workshop about the ordinance, City Planning and Development Director Jon Hartman said the options for the human direction signs were boiled down to either not regulate it or include setbacks in the regulation.

“I think the original intent was more the commercial sign spinners and that being a distraction,” Sellers said. “I don’t think anyone even thought about whether it was going to prohibit car wash signs and that kind of thing. As a pure matter of principal and being a proponent of limited government and freedom of speech and expression, I hate to totally limit that class of speech.”

Chairman Paul Bellamy could see how setbacks could help keep people safe. However, Sellers was unable to come up with a scenario where this kind of signage has been an issue.

“I think it’s trying to fix a problem we don’t have,” Sellers said.

Kirby advocated to just, “Let it go,” he said.

The motion to strike the language from the ordinance prohibiting directional signs was made by Sellers and seconded by Kirby. It was approved unanimously.

The reduction in cost associated with permits for temporary signs was reduced from $50 to $10.

Also, the city will have 30 days to either approve of deny a sign permit. The original language stated that the city has 60 days.

The majority of the ordinance was acceptable to Sellers, but she still had a few issues with it even after changes were made.

“I take issue with the ordinance in regards to political signs,” she said. “I don’t feel comfortable with tell people how many political signs they can put in their yard.”

The ordinance was approved with language restricting the number of signs per yard to one for each candidate.

“That political speech deserves the utmost protection in this country,” she said.

She also pointed out limitations pointed out on temporary signs.

“I just don’t think it’s very business friendly to limit it to only one per property,” she said. “We’re also limiting it to the number of days it can be used. I just don’t think that’s a problem that needs fixing.”

Vice President Dena Bass also pointed out that a 24-page sign ordinance is a bit daunting to some people.

“We actually break down each zone in the city and we spell out specifications,” Hartman said. “Currently there are these very generic standards and then they apply to zones that are just listed. We are taking a different approach with this.”

In other news, two public hearings concerning private property were conducted.

A measure to close an ally on the east side of 208 N. Lynn Ave. failed due to lack of a motion.

The rezoning of property located at the end of Parker Drive was approved unanimously. It went from a R-1 low density residential district to a R-1A low density residential district.

The commission also amended the agenda to include naming officers. A motion by Vice President Dena Bass to keep the same officers was unanimously approved.