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Hotel owner makes another attempt to keep sign

Farragut Municipal Planning Commission was asked to create a new commercial district that would include only two businesses along Outlet Drive — the latest in a string of attempts for a hotel owner to keep a non-conforming sign.

“This only affects two properties in the city of Farragut. It only affects Cotton Eyed Joe’s and the West Plaza Inn,” said Damon Falconnier, representative for the hotel owner, at the FMPC meeting Thursday, June 17.

“We feel like this is a reasonable request because these are only accessed from outside the town of Farragut,” he added.

West Plaza Inn & Suites off Outlet Drive has a non-conforming sign along Interstate-40/75 and the Town has asked that the hotel replace it with a conforming one. At past meetings, Falconnier has said replacing the sign would drive the hotel owner out of business.

“If we take the sign down, we’ll have a dilapidated building with no tax revenue,” he said.

Falconnier said the hotel property was “an unusual property that does not fall into many of the Town’s regulations as far as lot coverage, as far as the stormwater, as far as the signage.

“We feel it’s a reasonable request … to actually put together a separate zoning so we can actually tie a special sign ordinance to that zoning to make it reasonable for [our] sign to remain,” Falconnier said.

His June 17 request didn’t include specific changes to allow his sign, but would create a new commercial zone that would allow a host of other current non-conformities, including a total lot coverage of 90 percent and exemption from certain stormwater regulations.

A change to the sign ordinance could be tacked on to a new zoning district, eventually allowing his non-conforming sign as well.

But Community Development Director Ruth Hawk said the stormwater requirement changes in Falconnier’s proposal weren’t eligible for amending.

“Those aren’t just Farragut requirements; that’s a state requirement,” Hawk said.

“And 90 percent lot coverage is really, really high,” she added. Most other commercial districts in town have 70 percent lot coverage. The Public Market is allowed 75 percent; the downtown district (which has never been used) allows 80.

Hawk also pointed out that Outlet Drive was going to be connected to Snyder Road soon, and the Town’s land use and transportation policy plan would be reviewed and updated after that anyway.

“We feel this area does warrant more study, but not a change to the zoning ordinance at this time,” Hawk said.

Commissioner Ed St. Clair, acting as chair in Rita Holladay’s absence, agreed.

“I don’t like to see a zoning request that is tied to a narrow piece of property application,” he said.

“But I also feel it’s very premature — getting the cart before the horse — to deal with this request without looking at the context of that area … when the road goes in,” he added.

There was no vote on the request; it was for discussion only.

Commissioners also discussed a change to Farragut’s sign ordinance to allow buildings to have a second wall sign if that building didn’t have a paved surface in the front yard.

Hawk said this change was inspired by JCPenney off Parkside Drive, which was allowed two exterior signs — one facing Parkside and another facing its parking lot — because JCPenney’s parking lot wasn’t at the front of the building.

Hawk said the JCPenney variance was good, but it needed to apply to all businesses with the same construction plan, regardless of size.

“This [new rule] would not discourage this type of design,” Hawk said.

Mayor Ralph McGill agreed.

“There’s a new trend of building near the road and avoiding that sea of concrete,” he said.

Commissioners didn’t vote on the agenda item; it was for discussion only.

In other business, Commission:

• Approved a re-subdivision for The Cottages at Pryse Farm to modify a building envelope.

According to Hawk, the modification was needed because of a numerical error on the plat. “But all changes still have to be approved,” she said.

• Discussed amendments to the major road plan, to include a planned connector for Municipal Center Drive


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