An angry back-and-forth between council members and questions of the legitimacy of the new Light Emitting Diode (LED) Task Force preceded the group’s first meeting Monday, but ultimately a compromise may be coming on the lighting rod issue.
At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard, who formed the task force, said he would like to sit down with at-Large Councilwoman Megan Barry and Metro Zoning Administrator Sonny West to come up with an amended bill that allows religious institutions and schools not in residential areas to install LED signs like the ones seen at pharmacies.
Tygard also said the hotly contested LED sign issue, which has been met with fervent resistance from neighborhood associations across Davidson County, may be the precursor to re-working Metro’s 16-year-old sign zoning code.
Barry said she is happy to sit down with Tygard to amend his LED sign bill. Barry also said she intended to propose a memorializing resolution requesting Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors to form a task force aimed at updating all of Metro’s sign code.
“I’d like to come up with something that allows LED signs on a case-by-case basis on arterial streets and commercial districts that basically takes away the argument from residential neighborhoods,” Tygard said.
Tygard proposed a bill earlier this year that has been deferred at the Council level and disapproved by the Planning Commission. It is possible Tygard could present an amended bill to the Planning Commission, which it could then vote on again. Otherwise, Tygard’s bill will need 27 out of 40 votes by the Metro Council in order to be approved.
Initially Tygard proposed a bill that would allow LED signs for religious institutions and schools on arterial and collector streets, even when they run through residential areas. This was openly opposed by many Council members, who said their constituents don’t want the signs in neighborhoods.
After it was disapproved by Planning, Tygard formed the task force, but this was met with criticism. Barry took issue with how the task force was formed by Tygard. Barry said it should have been appointed by the vice mayor as is typically done with task forces.
Earlier this year, District 6 Councilman Mike Jameson requested Neighbors to appoint the task force for issues like a green building permit for developments in Nashville.
“I believe it is in the best interest of the Council to follow this process for the sign group as it will remove any perception that the appointees are stacked one way or the other, and I think, in the end, get to what we all desire — a frank and reasonable discussion regarding the sign ordinance,” Barry said in an email to Metro Council.
Barry’s issues with how the LED Task Force was appointed came after an contentious exchange between District 16 Councilwoman Anna Page and Tygard. Page posted a message on her District 16 listserv Web site encouraging her constituents to attend the task force meeting, “to express how we feel about our streets being lit up like Vegas!”
Tygard responded with an angry email claiming Page’s comments were out of line. Page in turn posted Tygard’s email on the listserv page.
Tygard maintains that he was not trying to go around Neighbors when he appointed the task force, which he said included input from several other council members.
“I said if they want to appoint another task force and have another public meeting that’s fine, but you’re only going to get the same complaints and the same comments,” Tygard said.
Tygard has argued that LED signs are more esthetically pleasing than the current plastic signs with removable letters often used by churches. Neighborhood associations have said LED signs are too bright and distracting for residential roads.
Tygard also said churches and schools with several events a day would benefit by being able to get their message out to as many people as possible.
Tygard’s bill also contained a section that brought Metro’s digital billboard code in line with the rest of the state. The new bill would require digital billboards to be at least 200 feet apart and to sit for eight seconds before displaying a new advertisement.
In order to ensure that portion of the bill was not defeated, at-large Councilman Ronnie Steine introduced a new bill that deals only with digital billboards.