More than 50 people, many of them business owners, packed Thursday’s Metro Planning Commission to oppose an ordinance that would dramatically change the way signs must comply with new zoning guidelines.
In the end, commissioners voted to defer an ordinance –– sponsored by council members Phil Claiborne and Burkley Allen –– that would require property owners to replace nonconforming signs if more than 50 percent of a sign’s surface area were altered or damaged. Affected signs would be existing signs that predated the implementation of pertinent zoning regulations.
“There’s too much fire here,” planning commissioner Phil Ponder said, referring to the controversy of the proposal.
The bill is now set to go before the commission again on Jan. 26.
In recent years, Metro has implemented a number of design overlays aimed at improving the aesthetics of corridors such as Gallatin Road and neighborhoods like Donelson and Green Hills.
Claiborne, the bill’s sponsor who also sits on the planning commission, said his goal is to simply begin implementing these neighborhood-inspired design standards. He called them “mandates of the community.”
But the bill’s passage would create some unusual scenarios: A non-compliant sign structure that has equally sized panels for six tenants of a commercial property, for example, would have to be removed and replaced if three tenants moved in and installed new panels.
The reason is: Under this scenario, 50 percent of the sign would be altered. In its place, a property owner would have to install a sign permitted by the zoning guidelines, such as a monument sign.
Many business owners, along with several heavyweights in Nashville’s development community, say replacing signs can cost thousands of dollars. Small businesses are hurt the most, they say.
“These dynamically increased costs will be born disproportionately by small business tenants, who are already struggling to make ends meet in this terrible economy,” H.G. Hill Realty Company CEO Jimmy Granbery wrote to commissioners in a letter prior to Thursday’s meeting.
• In other items, the planning commission approved a Councilwoman Karen Bennett-sponsored bill that would allow Nashvillians to keep chickens at urban residences.
The vote means the commission has recommended the Metro Council adopt the ordinance when it goes before the council on Jan. 3.