A zone change permitting an LED sign at a Bordeaux church received preliminary Metro Council approval Tuesday, even after neighborhood activists warned of a dangerous precedent set by allowing brightly lit signs in neighborhoods.
“This bill seems to involve a small and harmless change,” said Gene TeSelle, on behalf of the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance. “But as it turns out, it does affect all the districts and all the neighborhoods in Metro.”
At issue is an ordinance accommodating a proposed Specific Plan that would allow the Temple Baptist Church at 3810 Kings Lane, near Clarksville Pike, to build a 96-foot LED (light emitting diode) sign containing a 33-square-foot reader board. Under current Metro zoning code, the church is too close to residential homes to use an LED sign.
For years, LED signs have proved contentious in Nashville, with neighborhood activists decrying the color-lit illumination. Opponents fear allowing one church to mount an LED sign would pave the way for other religious institutions in Nashville –– no matter where they are –– to do the same.
The Temple Baptist Church situation is somewhat unique because it would rely on an SP change. It would be Metro’s first LED church sign to come through this mechanism.
“SP zoning, I don’t think is appropriate for LED signs,” said Charlotte Cooper of Green Hills. “To rezone .02 acres of 28 acres of property –– that’s spot-zoning.”
But dozens of church members –– far outnumbering opponents –– attended a Tuesday public hearing to speak for the LED sign, which would replace a sign destroyed in a recent storm.
“Temple Church is a very, very important institution in the North Nashville community,” Glen Johnson told council members.
“After the storm, any time you need to make a change in the [sign] message, someone has to climb a ladder to get up and change each letter to communicate,” he said.
The Metro Planning Commission recommended disapproval of the SP, but the council –– acting on the request of bill sponsor Councilman Lonnell Matthews Jr., who represents the area –– approved the bill on second reading Tuesday.
The bill now heads to the council’s Planning, Zoning and Historical Committee. Before the council considers the ordinance on third and final reading, members hope to find a way to prevent Temple Baptist Church’s permitted LED sign from establishing a full-scale county standard.
“I know there’s a lot of talk about precedent, and there’s a lot of talk about how the church is approaching getting approval for the sign,” Matthews said. “I want to work through those issues.
“If there’s a way to do the sign and protect other neighborhoods, I’m all for that,” he said. “This is not something the church is trying to rush.”
Councilman Jason Holleman, who represents the Sylvan Park area, said he received several emails from his own constituents regarding the Temple Baptist Church sign proposal.
“I do think there are some legal issues here that we have to work through,” Holleman said.