THE HUNTER REPORT
Signs Signs Everywhere
Looking the other way or equitable enforcement?
By: Pat Hunter
After receiving numerous phone calls and e-mails, I promised my readers that I would do some research about the placement of political signs in Lenoir City and post it on THE HUNTER REPORT.
The election is 70 + days away, nonetheless political signs of all shapes and sizes are popping up daily in various public right-of- ways (ROW) and public properties in the City of Lenoir City and elsewhere.
Cities and counties everywhere are grappling with quality of life and issues including sign issues and regulations and enforcement of regulations.
Years ago, Lenoir City and other communities within Loudon County participated in community meetings. One of Lenoir City's objective to manage growth was to "establish design guidelines and regulations for new development to ensure quality appearances and continuity with surroundings (e.g. landscaping and buffer requirements, signage controls"... and "providing strict codes enforcement."
The Lenoir City Regional Planning Commission and Lenoir City Codes Enforcement office participated in open discussions about the signage issue. As I recall, Lenoir City Councilman Eddie Simpson and others on the Lenoir City Regional Planning Commission voiced many concerns. Aesthetics and businesses investing capital investments in the city was at the top of the list. Lenoir City’s sign regulations originated from unenforceable codes enforcement issues, excessive signs on right- of-ways obstructing views, distractions and road hazards issues for motorists that may divert a drivers attention and Lenoir City’s quest to enhance tourism, beautification and aesthetics. As a result, the planning commission's recommendations helped craft Lenoir City’s sign regulations.
Lenoir City Council adopted sign ordinances, which included a provision to address public election signs:
11-604. Sign Structures - Public election sign: means any sign which is used for providing general information relative to a public office election. Signs under this definition shall be permitted not more than 60 days prior to an election for the office in question and removal not more than three days following the election of the office. No political sign shall be located on any public property or right of way.
Simple enough so why all the political signs, you may ask. That's a good question.
Shouldn't someone who wishes to be a road superintendent know all about right-of-ways and applicable sign regulations?
Candidates with political signs who appear to be in non-compliance of Lenoir City regs. include Councilman Eddie Simpson, County Road Supervisor Sean Giles, Gary Kinard, Angie Vittatoe, Darlene Russell, Nicholas Bradshaw, Van Shaver, Steve Cook, Tim Guider and Jennifer Gambel-Jackson. But, Mr. Simpson's political signs appear to far outnumber other candidates signs which dot Lenoir City's municipal boundary lines. As signs pop up, more will be added to THE HUNTER REPORT website.
Months ago, I attended a Lenoir City Regional Planning Commission meeting when a planning commission member voiced his concerns about a business being in violation of Lenoir City's sign regulations. The planning commission member spoke about enforcing the rules equitably. The business in question had more signage than the business was permitted to have. Subsequently, Lenoir City Codes Enforcement Office stepped in and enforced the rules and the issue was resolved without hesitation. Should one business be held to one set of enforcement standards while others (candidates with political signs) appear to get a free pass?
Enforcement & Other communities
City of Lebanon
The City of Lebanon adopted more stringent regulations that spelled out the consequences of violating the sign ordinance including immediate confiscation of signs in the right of ways, after 30 days signs would be destroyed and a $25.00 fee per sign to pick up a sign at the code’s enforcement office. Fines for illegal signs and annual permit fees could help pay for more enforcement if Lenoir City Council is serious about enforcing all of their regulations.
City of Greenback
Closer to home, at a recent Loudon County Republican Candidates announcement day, the Chairperson of the Loudon County Republican Party spoke about the placement of political signs within the City of Greenback. Candidates were reminded not to place political signs in public areas or right-of-ways in Greenback City.
Lenoir City has far more resources and personnel compared to little Greenback City yet, Mayor Tom Peeler appears to enforce the rules, no and ifs or buts.
Equitable or selective codes enforcement
Public safety and the public welfare are important components in laws and regulations. The public and business community expects equity and fairness in codes enforcement. Lenoir City Regional Planning Commission and Lenoir City Council, respectively recommended and adopted sign regulations. An ordinance without enforcement is worthless unless its on the books to pick on certain people, which in past years this has been the case.
From my perspective, Lenoir City has some options; enforce sign regulations equitably or remove the political sign provision from Lenoir City's regulations and quit being hypocritical!
Candidate signs located in Lenoir City right of ways.
If you have any concerns or questions about Lenoir City political sign regulations, please contact Lenoir City's Codes Enforcement Office at 986-7224 Ext. 124.