PF sign regs topic of Tuesday workshop | News

PIGEON FORGE — The City Commission is set to take a comprehensive look at proposed new sign regulations in a workshop at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall.

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The commission is considering an entirely new set of sign ordinances after court rulings that overturned city regulations on billboards.

Sevier County Chancellor Telford Forgety ruled earlier this year that the city’s ordinances were unconstitutional because they were based on content.

Like many other governments, the city was relying on regulations that differentiated between on-premise advertising and off-premise advertising.

Courts have increasingly found that is a violation of the First Amendment rights of property owners, including a ruling that struck down Tennessee’s billboard regulations in 2019.

Commissioners asked staff to prepare new regulations that are content neutral, and they are reviewing all of the city’s sign ordinances at the same time.

Commission also enacted a moratorium on new sign permits from March 8 to May 7.

By the time the moratorium was approved, the city’s planning department had received at least six site plans for new billboards in the city.

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However, the planning commission delayed consideration of those site plans, citing the moratorium.

In addition to making the billboard regulations content neutral, the ordinances include changes to some of the city’s sign regulations.

Most businesses along the Parkway, for example, had a limit of 350 square feet of signage but they could divide that between wall signs and ground signs.

The proposed new regulations would limit ground signs to 200 square feet and wall signs to 150 square feet.

City Commission has approved the new ordinances on first reading, but it must do so a second time before they are enacted. Commissioners have indicated they hope to do that before the moratorium ends on May 7.

Tuesday’s workshop will likely feature more in-depth discussion of the proposed new regulations than the regular meeting. The workshops are set aside to give commissioners more time to hear from staff and experts, and to discuss specifics of different proposals.

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