Signs of discord between businesses and city over flag regulation

January’s Downtown Business meeting saw the announcement of new downtown regulations, resulting in a conflict determining who gets the final say on how a business can advertise itself.

The new regulations involve the use of flags, standing or hanging, outside a business. Now, each business can only have one flag in use for their store, and they must pay the city of Elizabethton $10 for a permit for their flag.

City Planning and Economic Director Jon Hartman said the new regulations are there to promote a cleaner downtown experience.

“The city has to be concerned about general aesthetics,” Hartman said.

Some local businesses, however, are less than thrilled about the enforcement of this regulation. Howard Craft and Mike Manuel of H&S Hunting, for example, said the restriction negatively impacts businesses with little gain.

“All this city does it make it harder to do business,” Craft said. “We do not have a sign or flag problem in Carter County or Elizabethton.”

He said the regulation is the result of a lack of representation from local businesses in city government.

“You got people making choices who do not own a business,” he said. “They do not even ask us.”

Hartman said the regulation has been in effect since March of 2016, and said January’s Downtown Business meeting was to explain how the city would better enforce it.

“We try not to overburden businesses,” Hartman said. “We strive to find that middle ground.”

H&S Hunting used to have two large flags in front of its shop, but they had to take one of them down and then pay the $10 fee in order to keep the other flag up.

Craft said their store relies heavily on people seeing their flags in order to attract customers.

“People often say they did not even know we were here,” Craft said. “We need signage to promote us, to help people see we are here.”

Hartman said the best way to address grievances about the regulation is to bring the matter to the Public Planning Commission.

“Get together and sign a letter addressing your concerns,” Hartman said. “If there is a large majority, I am sure they would take a second look at the regulation.”

Craft said if the city wants to support local businesses, they need to spend money in the actual stores instead of going elsewhere.

“Local taxes should be used locally first,” Craft said. “City people are not in our stores. It is the cheapest way to promote business.”

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