The Metro Council is considering an ordinance that would allow businesses in commercially zoned districts to erect inflatable “stick people” for advertising purposes.
Though often not enforced, those towering air-filled, balloon-like publicity tools — frequently made to look like smiling cartoon characters and often found in front of used car lots — technically violate a Metro zoning code that prohibits signs susceptible to pressure by wind.
But a bill proposed by Metro Councilman Darren Jernigan, who represents parts of Hermitage and Old Hickory, would legalize inflatable figures, officially called air dancers, that are “made to resemble the human form and used to draw attention to an event or business.”
Under the bill, inflatable figures would not be allowed to exceed 20 feet, could not be placed less than 1,000 feet from residences and would have to be taken inside during night hours. Only one inflatable stick person would be permitted for each property.
The Metro Planning Commission, ignoring a recommendation of disapproval from the planning department’s staff, unanimously approved the bill. A public hearing for the bill is scheduled before the council Tuesday tonight. The public hearing had originally been scheduled for last month, but was postponed because of Nashville’s recent flood.
Jernigan said he decided to propose the bill after a Metro codes inspector ordered the owner of Tennessee Cellular, a store on Andrew Jackson Parkway in Hermitage, to take down her inflatable stick figure.
“Especially with the economy right now, small businesses are doing everything they can to get people in the doors,” Jernigan said. “I don’t see any harm with that type of signage.”
Jernigan said he was surprised to learn that inflatable advertising figures are prohibited in Davidson County.
“You see them all the time,” he said. “If you want to look at it in another way, it’s not being enforced, so why don’t you just make it law?
Jernigan said he’s heard little feedback about his bill, but expects staff members of the codes department to speak out against it at Tuesday’s public hearing.