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Coming Down
Farragut sees increase in ‘grandfathered’ signs being brought into compliance

Farragut’s “sign police” might be an oft mentioned and sometimes-derided aspect of the Town’s codes department, but the fact is Farragut is largely recognizable to outsiders because of its differences in sign regulations.

“I think a lot of the national companies, like Sherwin Williams or Taco Bell, they’re realizing that bigger isn’t always better or more effective,” Farragut assistant community development director Mark Shipley said.

“But that’s kind of a hard sell, because everybody always thinks bigger’s got to be better,” he added.

Shipley’s been busy lately, bringing a handful of grandfathered signs into compliance with the Town’s current regulations — including signs at Sherwin Williams, Taco Bell, West Plaza Inn & Suites and Pilot.

“That’s quite a few more than we’ve had in a while,” Shipley said.

Signs that were in place before the Town existed, or before the Town’s sign ordinance existed as it does now, are “grandfathered” and permitted to stay in place until the business makes substantive changes to its sign.

Usually those grandfathered signs are taller than Farragut’s normal permitted signs, and losing the grandfather means lowering the sign.

But there are benefits to lowering signs, Shipley said: very tall signs sit so far above a driver’s eye level that they go unseen. Smaller signs are safer for drivers, more aesthetically pleasing and reduce visual clutter, he added.

Taco Bell’s assistant manager, Anthony Hamby, agreed.

“It’s a lot better. I mean, it looks better and it’s more sleek and it just looks really good. It is bringing us more business than what we were getting before because it’s presentation. It’s more professional,” he said of Taco Bell’s new sign, in conjunction with the building’s extensive remodel.

Of course, not everyone agrees with the benefits of smaller signs.

Jat Patel, owner of West Plaza Inn, said his un-grandfathered 100-foot tall Interstate sign racked up $100,000 in fines before he took it down.

“Now I’m operating without the signage,” he said.

“I’ve been to court and all that stuff, and every time they just denied it. I don’t understand; I’m way away from Farragut, right on the Interstate. And now, because of all the trees near the motel, nobody can see the business,” he added.

West Plaza Inn & Suites is one of only a few businesses on Outlet Drive that sits in Farragut Town limits; the rest are in Knox County.

According to Shipley, businesses sometimes take their signs down after renovations, like Taco Bell, and sometimes voluntarily replace signs because the nonconforming one doesn’t fit in with surrounding businesses.

And sometimes, companies such as Pilot don’t replace a sign even after years on non-compliance.

Pilot was involved in a nearly five-year long lawsuit with the Town over a sign at its Campbell Station Road location, which stayed up for years after the gas station completed an extensive remodel.

That sign came down earlier this year.

Pilot’s attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs, didn’t return a phone call.

Shipley said he hopes business owners and developers become more familiar with Farragut’s sign regulations as more grandfathered signs are phased out.

“As more and more signs come into compliance, there’s more of a consistency in the Town and there’s less of ‘Well, why do they get to have this huge sign and you’re asking me to have this little bitty sign?’” Shipley said.

“As new signs are approved and old signs are rotated out, we hear less and less of that. Because people who come to Farragut know what kinds of signs we have and they generally like it, or else they wouldn’t be coming here,” he added.


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