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Businessman requests sign ordinance change

A local designer asked Farragut’s Municipal Planning Commission to change its sign ordinance to allow existing non-conforming signs to remain legal if the sign or building is physically changed.

Currently, Town guidelines require “grandfathered” illegal signs to come into compliance with Farragut regulations if the sign or the building they represent is changed.

“Numerous signs have been brought into compliance” through attrition, Community Development Director Ruth Hawk said at the FMPC meeting, Thursday, Feb. 18.

David Falconnier, Falconnier Design Co., called the current ordinance “incredibly restrictive,” and said businesses should be allowed to change the lettering or coloring of a non-conforming sign without having to replace it entirely.

In the current ordinance, “[Business owners] cannot change their copy; they cannot change their colors; they cannot change their text as we get those corporate [logo] changes,” Falconnier said.

FMPC chair Rita Holladay asked Falconnier if he was representing a specific business with a specific non-conforming sign.

“Yes, but I don’t want it to cloud the issue,” Falconnier said.

Commissioner Cindy Hollyfield pointed out a change to sign lettering or coloring would require replacing the sign anyway.

Falconnier then specified the sign in question was one with an existing framed box — all the business owner wanted to replace was the facing.

Falconnier said neither the size of the sign nor the type of illumination used would be changed.

He added that replacing the sign with a conforming one would cause the business he represented to go under.

Hollyfield asked if it would be the price of changing the sign or a decrease in visibility that would prove fatal for the mystery business.

“They will no longer be visual. They will no longer be seen,” Falconnier said.

“Then it must be grossly non-conforming,” Commissioner Ed St. Clair said of the sign.

Commissioner Ron Rochelle told Falconnier that Farragut would never be “beautified” if the Town allowed non-conforming signs to exist in perpetuity.

“There is not a perpetual right to non-conformance,” St. Clair agreed.

“We’ve had a lot of other businesses make that commitment [to conform] and it doesn’t seem fair to the other businesses,” Holladay said.

Hawk said the Town’s sign ordinance was adopted in 1982, and said requiring non-conforming signs to eventually convert to Farragut standards “was at the heart” of the ordinance.

The sign ordinance creates “a more equitable playing field for all businesses,” Hawk said, adding it was more restrictive than sign ordinances outside Farragut limits.

The proposed ordinance change was for discussion only; no vote was taken.


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