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Business preparation prevents costly mistakes

What are the ins and outs of complying with the town of Farragut when looking to start a new business within town limits?

Ruth Hawk, town community development director, said that when moving into an existing building, “The first thing you need to do is contact the town about reinspection, so that you can reoccupy the space.

“When a building or a space, like a tenant space, is vacated, Dan Johnson, our fire marshal, goes out and he puts a sticker on the door, ‘please contact town of Farragut’ and it’ll list the phone number and everything like that, for reinspection ...,” Hawk added. “It’ll say ‘do not occupy,’ because we have no way of knowing whether they made any modifications that were in violation of building codes that would create new problems for a tenant. So we want to catch it on the front end. We do periodically inspect, but that doesn’t mean something wasn’t done since an inspection.

“Upon reinspection, if there’s problems with the building or modifications need to be made, they just need to work with our codes staff to bring it up to code.

“And before you get a sign, you need to get a permit, also.”

Given that Farragut’s sign ordinance has a reputation for being strict, Hawk advises new business people to “just call before you place any orders. A lot of the sign companies around here, if they know they’re in the town of Farragut, the sign companies will actually have an approval before they will take an order to make sure that everything’s O-K.”

As for basic signage ordinance requirements, “For every linear foot of tenant space that you have facing your parking lot you get one square foot of signage,” Hawk said. “For a wall sign, there are no height restrictions.

“But it has to be a wall sign, it can’t be, like attached to the roof. It has to be attached to the wall,” she added. “Ground-mounted signs are only allowed for streets and free-standing structures, or for a shopping center type-thing.”

Adding your sign on a shopping center “common sign that is out at the road” requires a permit, Hawk said.

As for those against the sign ordinance, “you’re going to hear from the most verciferous ones,” Hawk said, “but we have a lot of people that come in every month getting sign permits and nobody hears anything about those people because they are not complaining.”

“One of the biggest problems that we see is that there’s the misconception that if you’re remodeling and things like that, that there aren’t state requirements,” Hawk said. “In the state of Tennessee, you do have to have, like, a licensed architect. You can’t just say, ‘Well, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.’ When you’re dealing with commercial space you do have to have a licensed person.”

Also, “a lot of people don’t realize, even though that we do sticker the building, that you really do need to get another sticker of occupancy before you reoccupy the building,” Hawk said. “It’s really for health, life, safety issues. ... A lot of people don’t realize that they need to have the building reinspected before they can move in.”

Hawk said such things as painting and putting new shingles on your roof, for example, do not require a building permit. “We had a lot of people complain when Cook’s Bar-B-Q painted [their] building green — we don’t regulate that ... you need a building permit when you’re doing something that could affect the structural integrity of the building,” she said. “As soon as you need a building permit, that’s when you go to [Farragut Municipal] planning commission.”

To construct a building for a new business, “The only time the planning commission gets involved is when building permits are involved and construction is going on,” Hawk said. “They’re looking at land, they come and talk to me, they get some ideas about what property is zoned, where it is zoned appropriately for their use. Then, after they find the property, they may come and talk to me to see how it would work for them on that particular piece of property.

“Or, they wait until the have an architect, engineer, a landscape architect, some design professional hired,” Hawk added. “Then they meet with town staff, which include mostly Darryl [Smith, town engineer] and myself. ... If it’s a heavily treed area, Mark Shipley [developement coordinator, landscape] will be involved in the meeting. And that’s just dealing with the site itself, not the actual building itself.

“They meet with us, we go over what our town requirements are, the planning commission process and everything. There could be anywhere from one meeting to several meetings, it really depends on the designer, on how much they schedule. We do not schedule these meetings, they are initiated by the designer themselves.”

Hawk said a designer/businessman, or the applicant, must submit a site plan to her no later than the Monday 17 days before a FMPC meeting.

“Once it’s submitted it gets put into our review process,” Hawk said. “Plans get circulated to five different staff people that review the plans and generate comments. Those comments are compiled and given to the applicant. Then it is discussed in the workshop. ... The applicant has a week to make the changes and resubmit for the following meeting two weeks later.”

In addition, “as you’re getting your site plan approved, you can also get your landscape plan approved, and that goes before the Visual Resources Review Board,” Hawk said, adding that the VRRB always meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month. “Plans must be submitted on Monday fifteen days before the meeting. Mark [Shipley] reviews the plans, gets comments back before going on to VRRB.”

To apply for a business license, call Town Hall, 11408 Municipal Court Drive, at 865-777-9476.


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