Council OK's bill encouraging businesses to keep historic signs

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 10:14pm

There’s a new Metro law aimed at protecting historic signs after the Metro Council on Tuesday gave final approval of legislation that could provide business owners more reasons to not remove those signs. 

According to Metro Councilman Jason Holleman, who sponsored the bill along with Councilman Phil Claiborne, business owners have a “maximum allowable” square feet of signage they can display. The new law — unanimously approved and now awaiting Mayor Karl Dean’s signature — exempts historic signs from adding to the limit.

Holleman referenced the soon-to-close Elliston Place Soda Shop — which has a beloved historic sign — to demonstrate how the new law can work when new businesses move into buildings with landmark signs.

“For instance where Elliston Place Soda Shop is closing down,” Holleman said. “If a new business comes into there, right now they’re incentivized to take down that sign because that square footage of signage cuts into the total allowable signage that they can have.

“So, this bill does not count historic signage toward the total maximum allowable,” he said. “In other words, I have no incentive to take that sign down.”

Holleman also said a number of historic signs are “legally non-conforming” by law — in other words, they had been erected years ago, but with new zoning restrictions, are now longer permitted.

But he said the new law provides a mechanism for people to take down their sign, refurbish it and reinstall it — and to do so without violating zoning restrictions. 

“The goal is to encourage businesses to keep and maintain existing historic and vintage signs,” Holleman said. 

Three categories of signs constitute as “landmark signs,” under the new definition in Metro’s code. They are as follows:

• Historic signs — signs that are at least 50 years old

• Vintage signs — signs that are between 25 and 50 years old

• Replica signs — signs that are exact reproductions of historic signs

In addition, “Landmark signs must be ‘representative of excellence in a particular construction period’ or demonstrate ‘extraordinary aesthetic quality, creativity or innovation,’ according to the legal analysis of the new law.

In other business Tuesday, the council voted to disapprove a resolution that would have allowed a new waste transfer facility to be established on Centennial Boulevard in West Nashville.

Councilman Buddy Baker, the area’s representative, had sponsored the resolution but told colleagues to disapprove it after the Metro Nashville Airport Authority and several constituents had expressed concern over the proposal. 

3 Comments on this post:

By: macjedi on 7/20/11 at 7:42

OH LOOK! A preservation law written UNIVERSALLY and not just for ONE SITE. Imagine that. Gee, sometimes the difference really is just in good legislating.

By: Nitzche on 7/20/11 at 8:11

i wonder if they closed your fairgrounds in the city you grew up in?

By: on 7/20/11 at 12:13

I don't think "macjedi" has grown up yet.