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Town rolls out special event package
Special signage key to program

Business owners should expect big changes to a section of Farragut’s zoning ordinances that allows them to have special event permits.

“Established businesses use this zoning section more than any other,” Community Development Director Ruth Hawk said at a Farragut Municipal Planning Commission meeting Thursday, Aug. 19.

The special event permit section allows businesses to celebrate grand openings, sales, specials or basically anything else with special signage.

But some changes to the “Buy in Farragut” campaign could alter the permitting for the rest of the year too.

“Buy in Farragut is going to be an evolving program,” Hawk told Commissioners, so changes to the program likely would be incremental and, to some degree, experimental.

At a recent public meeting, business owners from around Town discussed the possibility of prohibiting special events during the Buy in Farragut campaign, which lasts for about six weeks during November and December.

And that idea was one of many presented to FMPC members.

“What if someone opens a business in those months?” Mayor Ralph McGill asked.

Hawk said they would need to participate in “Buy in Farragut” in order to put up any kind of special event signage or be granted a permit for such.

“So we’re kind of forcing people into this?” Commissioner Melissa Mustard asked.

“Yes, we are,” Hawk said.

No special events for businesses would be allowed during the “Buy in Farragut” campaign period (or for two weeks before and after), Hawk said, but as always, any business could participate in “Buy in Farragut” for free.

Another question for FMPC to consider was whether the number of special events businesses are allowed per year should be reduced from four to three.

“Special events create a sense of community,” Commissioner Ron Honken said.

“If we don’t have a problem, don’t narrow that down yet,” he added.

Hawk also brought up another section of the zoning ordinance that regulates outdoor sales, and which she is seeking to re-write to allow “seasonal events,” such as the Dixie Lee Farmer’s Market and the sale of Christmas trees in Village Green.

“We’re trying to figure out how to better accommodate our business community,” Hawk said, and this section would cover events that aren’t tied to any specific business but are instead community-based.

However, the ordinance as it exists now applies only to outdoor sales that were permitted for the old K-Mart in Farragut, which no longer exists. In other words, the entire ordinance would have to be rewritten to apply to anyone else.

After a few minutes of rather confused discussion, Commissioner Honken told Hawk he wasn’t sure how to proceed.

“I’m not sure what you want input on,” Honken told Hawk.

“We’ve just got a huge blank canvas here. If we’re going to do something, let’s do something that will help the people who use it.

“Let’s have the users bring us their ideas,” he added.

Ed St. Clair agreed, saying he’d like to have feedback from business groups such as the Farragut Business Alliance and the Economic Development Committee.

Town Administrator David Smoak told Commissioners he and McGill were members of the FBA, and could speak for that group.

Hawk finally came up with just one question she needed answered: whether the new ordinance would require applicants to go before the Board of Zoning Appeals for approval of their event through a “special exemption” clause, or whether the process could be handled administratively.

“We want to make this easy, not difficult,” McGill said.

The ordinance, however it ends up being written, should reflect an attitude of finding a way to do something, not reasons why the Town can’t, he added.


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