PF Commission passes new sign ordinances | News

PIGEON FORGE — The city will have a new set of sign ordinances before its moratorium on sign permits ends, after commissioners voted 4-1 Monday to approve the new regulations.

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The city first announced its plans for a moratorium at its Feb. 22 meeting, approving it on first reading. The moratorium started on March 8, and with approval of the new ordinances will end April 27.

Commissioner Ken Maples, who had already expressed reservations with the regulations at a workshop, cast the sole dissenting vote against the new regulations.

The ordinances aim to make the city’s regulations “content neutral” after the old regulations were overturned in court.

Maples had proposed delaying the final vote until the commission’s April 19 meeting. The other commissioners failed to second that motion after realizing that would mean the ordinance wouldn’t take effect until after the moratorium ended — meaning the city would go a week without any sign regulations.

They also failed to second Maples’s motion to extend the moratorium into May.

Maples said he believes the additional restrictions would affect other signs, weren’t necessary and that other businesses were being restricted so that they could regulate billboards.

“We’re going to take away that opportunity to improve their signage because we want to prevent billboards,” he said.

The new regulations would restrict the size of wall signs to 150 square feet and ground signs to 200 square feet.

Previously, businesses had the option of having ground signs of up to 350 square feet, although officials said very few had built signs that size.

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The regulations would allow all existing signs to remain with their current square footage, leaving them “grandfathered” in until they need to be rebuilt.

Commissioners did make some last-minute changes to the regulations, including one that would allow businesses to use about 15% of their facade for wall signs.

Commissioner Jay Ogle also asked them to review their regulations for graphics, which have been a constant target of scrutiny for the city as commission has tried to allow attractions to have attention-grabbing features while still regulating them.

The latest ordinances also did away with restrictions on flags in areas zoned for residential use.

The new ordinances were an effort to make the city’s sign resolutions “content neutral.”

Several court rulings nationwide have struck down regulations that differentiate between signs based on whether they advertise on-premise or off-premise businesses.

That culminated in Sevier County Chancellor Telford Forgety overturning the city’s old billboard regulations.

City officials said they believed the same logic could be applied to the other sign regulations, and set out to draft new ordinances that could pass the same review.

While the General Assembly revamped the state of Tennessee’s billboard regulations after a similar ruling, Pigeon Forge is the first city in Tennessee to rewrite its sign regulations.

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