Amendments on docket for city sign ordinance

Published 5:03 pm Tuesday, April 10, 2018

As election season continues to reach a fever pitch heading into the May 1 Primary, City of Elizabethton officials will look at making a few changes to the sign regulations currently on the books.

City Council will look at the possibility of approving amendments to the current sign ordinances to “ease Council’s concerns regarding large signs in residential zones,” according to documents provided from City Hall.

Jon Hartman, Planning and Development Director and current interim city manager, stated that the department has been enforcing the new sign regulations for almost two years and has been looking at problem areas when it comes to enforcing the ordinance.

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Hartman indicated in the agenda summary provided to Council that the Regional Planning Commission has worked diligently on the Major Thoroughfare Plan and roadway classification to better allow larger signage in the certain zones, only when deemed appropriate — primarily for churches, businesses or subdivisions that can locate into residential zones. The amendments include clarification to the current ordinance and were recommended by the Regional Planning Commission. 

With early voting now in full swing with candidates making a push for votes, the city has specific guidelines when it comes to placing signs within the community for candidates.

According to city documents, the city does not require any type of permit for the placement of political signs, but does regulate different items — size, time and location — about signs in the city limits.

The size of a sign that can be placed is based off where a piece of property is zoned within the city, according to current Elizabethton Municipal Code.

According to the code, in residential zones — classified as R-1, R-2 and R-3 — the maximum sign square footage is four feet. In industrial and commercial zones — M-R, B-1, B-3, B-4, M-1 and M-2 — larger signs (limit is 32 square feet with a maximum height of 8 feet) are permitted.

For the location of a sign, the code regulates the position of where political signs can be placed and mentions that political signs “cannot be in the public right-of-way and that they must be a maximum of 1 foot away from all property lines for 4 square feet and under 5 feet away from all property lines for signs over 4 square feet.”

City documents also indicate that signs cannot be located “within a 35 foot by 35 foot triangle” at the intersection of any two or more roads.

Other stipulations involved power line poles. According to the city, all political signs need to be placed on the house or structure side of all sidewalks and power line poles.

If no poles and sidewalks are near where a sign is to be placed, a minimum requirement of 5 foot for signs under 4 square feet, and a minimum of 10 feet for signs over 4 square feet should be between the top of a curb or edge of pavement and the sign. No election signs can be placed on city property, including city parks.

Another key component of the sign laws in the city is the display time frame. Signs can be placed 90 days in advance of an election and 14 days post election.

Penalties for going against the ordinance could include the confiscation of a sign, a citation, $50 per day fine, or a required court appearance.

Hartman recently told the Elizabethton Star that the department will continue patrolling the areas throughout the election season until November and that the department appreciates individuals that have been in compliance with the ordinance.

For further questions about the size or placement of a sign, individuals can visit the city’s website, Facebook page or can contact the Building Codes Division of the city at (423) 542-1503.