PIGEON FORGE — A billboard blitz for the planning commission got delayed Tuesday when the group tabled consideration of six site plans for new signs.
The planning commission noted city commissioners enacted a moratorium on March 8, which prohibits the city from considering new signs through May 7.
So while the site plans were submitted to the city’s planning department before March 2 — the deadline to appear on March’s agenda — the planning commission opted not to consider the plans.
“We can’t consider it, I hope everybody understands that,” said Commissioner Ken Maples, who serves as a city commissioner and planning commissioner.
All the billboard site plans on the agenda were submitted by Land Surveyors Services Inc.
The decision was approved with no comments from the public.
Attorneys and representatives of Land Surveyors Services were in the audience for Tuesday’s planning commission, but did not speak.
They could be considering legal action. While the city commission approved the moratorium March 8, Land Surveyors Services submitted their requests before that date.
The city’s old sign ordinances had strong restrictions on billboards, but Chancellor Telford Forgety overturned those restrictions in a ruling earlier this year.
That decision, based on rulings handed down in federal appellate court decisions, found that the billboard ordinances didn’t pass constitutional muster because they were based on content.
Pigeon Forge’s ordinance, like many across the country, differentiated between signs advertising off-premise businesses and signs advertising on-premise businesses.
The courts have found ordinances like that are content based and violate the First Amendment rights of property owners.
The city is now reviewing its sign ordinances and hopes to have new regulations in place by the time the moratorium ends May 7.
The state of Tennessee faced the same issue after a federal court ruling on its billboard regulations, and passed a new law in 2020 that regulates billboards based on revenue they produce rather than by content.