Critics fear LED sign at Bordeaux church could set bad precedent

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 10:25pm

A zone change permitting an LED sign at a Bordeaux church received preliminary Metro Council approval Tuesday, even after neighborhood activists warned of a dangerous precedent set by allowing brightly lit signs in neighborhoods.

“This bill seems to involve a small and harmless change,” said Gene TeSelle, on behalf of the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance. “But as it turns out, it does affect all the districts and all the neighborhoods in Metro.”

At issue is an ordinance accommodating a proposed Specific Plan that would allow the Temple Baptist Church at 3810 Kings Lane, near Clarksville Pike, to build a 96-foot LED (light emitting diode) sign containing a 33-square-foot reader board. Under current Metro zoning code, the church is too close to residential homes to use an LED sign.

For years, LED signs have proved contentious in Nashville, with neighborhood activists decrying the color-lit illumination. Opponents fear allowing one church to mount an LED sign would pave the way for other religious institutions in Nashville –– no matter where they are –– to do the same.

The Temple Baptist Church situation is somewhat unique because it would rely on an SP change. It would be Metro’s first LED church sign to come through this mechanism.

“SP zoning, I don’t think is appropriate for LED signs,” said Charlotte Cooper of Green Hills. “To rezone .02 acres of 28 acres of property –– that’s spot-zoning.”

But dozens of church members –– far outnumbering opponents –– attended a Tuesday public hearing to speak for the LED sign, which would replace a sign destroyed in a recent storm.

“Temple Church is a very, very important institution in the North Nashville community,” Glen Johnson told council members.

“After the storm, any time you need to make a change in the [sign] message, someone has to climb a ladder to get up and change each letter to communicate,” he said.

The Metro Planning Commission recommended disapproval of the SP, but the council –– acting on the request of bill sponsor Councilman Lonnell Matthews Jr., who represents the area –– approved the bill on second reading Tuesday.

The bill now heads to the council’s Planning, Zoning and Historical Committee. Before the council considers the ordinance on third and final reading, members hope to find a way to prevent Temple Baptist Church’s permitted LED sign from establishing a full-scale county standard.

“I know there’s a lot of talk about precedent, and there’s a lot of talk about how the church is approaching getting approval for the sign,” Matthews said. “I want to work through those issues.

“If there’s a way to do the sign and protect other neighborhoods, I’m all for that,” he said. “This is not something the church is trying to rush.”

Councilman Jason Holleman, who represents the Sylvan Park area, said he received several emails from his own constituents regarding the Temple Baptist Church sign proposal.

“I do think there are some legal issues here that we have to work through,” Holleman said.

24 Comments on this post:

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/11 at 2:54

I think it would be a bad idea to let this happen. Once you let them cross the line, then they’re one step closer to you.

By: manicsquirrel on 11/2/11 at 5:20

Even living outside of the metro area of Knoxville, it's hard to see most stars anymore. I would make a case against the brightly lit sign because it won't be shielded to keep light from going upward and further obscuring the night sky. However, you probably can't see the night sky in Nashville anyway.

It's weird, as a child I could still see the spiral arm of the Milky Way in the sky whenever I stepped outside. My children have never seen it. Few people give thought to light pollution.

By: HokeyPokey on 11/2/11 at 5:41

"somewhat unique?"

Is that like being a little bit pregnant?


By: treehugger7 on 11/2/11 at 6:19

I think god can find them without the sign...

By: govskeptic on 11/2/11 at 6:39

Even though "Sign Pollution" is throughout our city in ever growing
versus smaller locations there is absolutely no reason to approve
this sign. Any church or business can get a message across within
the current sign ordances without resorting to these distracting
and flashing ones! No place for Councilmatic courtesy on this
county wide problem.

By: Loner on 11/2/11 at 6:46

Good morning, Nashville!

As for what to do about a proposed, mega-bucks, 96 foot-long, LED, super-sign, all I can ask is: "What would Jesus do?"

Christ got his message out just fine without needing sophisticated super-signage...the pastor(s) at this church need gaudy. glitzy, electronic visual aids to get their message out, or so it appears.

Of course, Christ did not have the kind of money and political influence that the pastor of this church has....Councilmen jump when this pastor barks.

Sounds like this "temple" is a highly profitable enterprise, with demonstrated political influence.

One wonders what sorts of messages will be displayed on the hi-tech electronic billboard....most likely exhortations to tithe one's @ss off...those signs ain't cheap and the pastor needs new designer shoes.

Sounds like this "temple" could use a good outside looks like lots of cash is moving around inside that tax-free entity....and lots of political clout is being brought to bear upon the state, by a church.

This whole matter has a distinct stink upon it,'s that old church vs state conundrum. Thank God, it's good for an occasional laugh.

By: RTungsten on 11/2/11 at 6:49

If climbing a ladder is their worry, why not put the sign on the ground? Shops all over Brentood do this and they seem to do fine.

By: Loner on 11/2/11 at 7:01

Climbing a ladder brings one closer to God...let 'em keep on climbin'....they could certainly use some assistance from on high.

How big is 96 feet? The trailers on most over-the-road semis are 50-55 feet long...this super sign is nearly as long as two of those trailers. That's effin HUGE.

And they want to put this monstrosity up in a residential neighborhood?

They're joking, right?

This sign, if approved, will probably touch off a "Sign War" between the competing temples, churches and whatevers...."My sign's bigger than your sign - My God's bigger than yours."

As I have said before, Holy Wars Suck.

My outsider's advice to the Council is to say, "NO", to this will be opening up Pandora's Box, if you vote, "YES".

By: on 11/2/11 at 7:02

I don't see any problem with the sign. It just involves newer technology. Apparently people had concerns when electric lights were first used. The electric light "hurt their eyes," or "could blind them," etc. What is the inherent danger with using some kind of new and different technology?

By: Loner on 11/2/11 at 7:04

One is forced to ask, how much does a sign like that cost to buy, install and operate? Who gets the kickback? WTF is going on here?

By: Loner on 11/2/11 at 7:12

Taxpayer, I don't think that the novelty of the technology is frightening's the "IN YOUR FACE" proselytizing that signs like this are designed to do...that's the turn-off for most reasonable people.

In this particular case, the signage is too close to residential housing, according to this article. That's a legitimate concern.

As a taxpayer, aren't you somewhat put off by a wealthy, tax-exempt church pressuring government for concessions in such a brazen and arrogant manner? That would tick me off, buddy...but I don't pay your local do.... Give 'em Hell.

By: T-BONE on 11/2/11 at 7:55

Hypocrisy and Bronze age BS is their business, and business is GOOD! There's a SUCKER born every minute! "Pastor" Maury "Throat sitter of old women" Davis (RICH CON-MAN), will be ordering his even bigger and flashier sign to make more MONEY with his lies and "Dog & Pony Shows, poisoning the minds of young children and fleecing his "Flock of Fools"!...$ucker$... GOD is all for it! $$$$$$$$$$$$$

By: Loner on 11/2/11 at 8:28

T-Bone, you say the Honorable Holyman bears false witness...please elaborate.

By: RTungsten on 11/2/11 at 8:45

I'd like to see churches pay taxes, personally.

By: Loner on 11/2/11 at 8:54

If the churches, temples etc. paid taxes, they would absolutely take over...this democratic republic would become a theocracy overnight, should we ever tax the churches...they would DEMAND they do in the "Holy Land" region.

As it stands, we can tell the tax-exempt churches to butt out of governance...they don't always listen to that admonishment, but at least we secularists can try to get some daylight between church and state with that line of reasoning.

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/11 at 9:11

I don’t think that God is behind this sign. I wonder if Bobby Joslin has anything to do with it?

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/11 at 9:19

By: RTungsten on 11/2/11 at 7:49
If climbing a ladder is their worry, why not put the sign on the ground? Shops all over Brentood do this and they seem to do fine.

This is not Brentwood and I don't see the neighbor wanting it to be anything like Brentwood.

By: bfra on 11/2/11 at 9:41

Even is Churches are not taxed, the businesses the Church owns, should be. Church, in most cases, is a business now, instead of a religion and they are bilking taxpayers every day.

By: bfra on 11/2/11 at 9:42

Nemo, I think you have a valid point about Joslin!

By: san r on 11/2/11 at 9:58

i don't mean to sound self-centered but i just e-mailed my councilman, walter and asked for his help in getting my backyard fenced off to protect my property and perhaps my life, poor Mr. Wisdom, from stray dogs and stray people who walk right by me as i am walking, picking up trash or tending my garden in my own yard.

if a sign is going to influence how people respect and love one another, then i'm all for it, otherwise who needs it?

i asked my nephew, who appears on 3 of lalanai's songs what was he planning on doing with his young life? he said that he planned to use his voice to get others to use their minds. i said try to appeal to their hearts., as well, for that is where all of the evil lies.
i find a lot of people who pay far more attention to what's on the outside than what's in.

lalanai sage records
new cd: Desire and Fear

By: Xeroid on 11/2/11 at 7:04

Mr. GarrrIson, as a member of this church that is being criticized to "high heaven," I would greatly appreciate you correcting the size of the sign. It is not 96 feet. It's 96 "square" feet. What that means for those of you don't know how to compute square footage is that the sign is significantly smaller than what you folks are railing on about. You guys at the City Paper generally get things right, but not this time. The much maligned Tennessean at least got the sign dimensions correct.

By: macjedi on 11/3/11 at 7:56

NEWSFLASH! Codes has no idea what they're doing! Next up! The sky is blue! Scene at 10.

By: on 11/3/11 at 8:33

Capt, bfra. Bingo!

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