Sign regulations being crafted to yield a more attractive downtown

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 5:42pm

Specific signage guidelines for downtown Nashville — with one focus likely to include regulations based on individual streets and their respective businesses — moved one step closer to reality Tuesday as the consulting firm crafting the regulations presented them to the Metro Planning Department staff.

Craig Owensby, the department’s spokesman, said the meeting was “productive,” with “lots of good discussion. Tuesday’s presentation followed a Monday public meeting, during which about 15 downtown business and property owners provided their perspective on the effort.

“Right now, planners are looking at [continued] public input and coming up with a timeline,” Owensby said, adding both the planning commission and Metro Council will need to approve.

Austin-based Code Studio Inc. is crafting the signage guideline to accompany the city’s Metropolitan Zoning Code, called simply the Downtown Code (DTC). If approved, future signs for parts of downtown — bordered by the Cumberland River on the east, Jefferson Street on the north and the inner-interstate loop on the west and south — could be very specific regarding the use of, for example, tall skinny poles, neon and plastic. 

Extremely tall, bright and/or large signs, for example, are often geared toward motorists and can have a visually jarring effective on mixed-use urban districts, the department has said in the past.

“Their mission is to write a code that matches the envisioned character of the Downtown Code,” Owensby said, adding new regulations could make downtown more “pedestrian oriented” and “location specific.”

Owensby said the goal, for example, is to have the guidelines render signs suitable for their respective environments. 

"This is not a one-size-fits-all approach," Owensby said. "It will be tailored to individual streets rather than to the entire downtown area."

Owensby said a new sign code could "streamline the review process."

“One agency would review [signage] rather than several,” he said.

Metro is paying Code Studio $38,000 for its work.

11 Comments on this post:

By: willtw on 9/27/11 at 5:37

More sign codes? Heck, they cannot enforce equally the ones they now have on the books! Someone complains, the complaint is investigated then lo and behold, NOTHING HAPPENS!

By: sidneyames on 9/28/11 at 6:55

Well Metro, thanks for contributing to the economy in Austin TX. That's mighty fine of you all. I'm sure people who are unemployed in the consulting business here - BASED in Nashville or Tennessee, are just praising you for that move. Good grief people, can't you find a company that is local to award the business to?

By: producer2 on 9/28/11 at 7:17

I know I am pointing out the obvious but if there are locals who are unemployed in the consulting business, they are not actually IN the consulting business...they are unemployed. Thankfully many who ARE in the consulting business get hired to do work outside of the City and State as well as locally. It's called getting the best person for the job.

By: govskeptic on 9/28/11 at 7:51

These new sign code recommendations (suggested by consultants, of course)
will wind up just like all the others that get enacted. It depends on who the
developer or owner is irregardless of how the code reads. If the requirements
say you can't do this or have that in your sign, then you skip the permit all
together, put up what you wish! Then the Appeals board (again depending
on who you are) will give you a tongue lashing and grant a variance.
History with this subject shows this to be the case all over the City!

By: tomba1 on 9/28/11 at 8:10

It all goes back to the dean machine who appoints all of these commission people with the blessing of his council. If you need something "fixed", just go to the man. If you need a little contract, just go to the man. It's not about us; it's about the man.

By: sidneyames on 9/28/11 at 9:42

Producer, I see your point. I'm still all for hiring locally. When our district was duped into approving the "join Nashville", ie, rezoned to fit into Nashville rather than be rural, we thought the trash collection would be a local company. NOPE; they are from other states contracted to Metro. Tell me really: How many people from other states care about the quality of life, the trash on the streets and beautifying Nashville?

NONE!! They are here for the money. Take the money and run. Dean is the bigget proponent of HIRE them thar' out of staters.

I agree with you govskeptic also. I can't tell you how many violations we have in a 10 mile radius of my home.

By: macjedi on 9/28/11 at 9:53

Pretty much all of Metro Codes seems to do nothing. We have a chronic yard-parking issue on our street, and the population doing it WORKS FOR A LIVING, so they cannot be caught by inspectors who happen to clock out at 4pm. Codes needs to consider WORKING for their enforcement, and braving the dark of night.

Generally, sign codes make sense to have if they are enforced. So the code is not the question as much as the work ethic of the enforcers. And let's not be idiots like Franklin and limit the height of the sign to a low display, while encouraging our over-privelidged population to drive tall SUVs which BLOCK those signs.

By: BellevueBill on 9/28/11 at 10:09

This is a relief. I was worried that the city might be concerned with high unemploymen or some other type of nonsense.

By: producer2 on 9/28/11 at 10:50

I appreciate your story about trash pickup but there may be another side as well. Would you rather hire a company that might be more expensive and not have as strong a track record in actually doing the work just because they were local? The government at all levels has a history of sometimes not doing the right thing, but I don't think that happens in all cases. Locally the Mayor is in a no win scenario with many (especially those on this blog) If Metro hires a local firm and your taxes go up because of the cost and the local firm misses it's pickup days from time to time, then Metro gets skewered. If Metro hires a firm like Waste Management that is national (with local offices) then people are unhappy because you didn't go local although the price is lower and the work gets done. Some days you just can't win...

By: bruingeek on 9/28/11 at 11:02

LOL @ BellevueBill This may not be about unemployment, but it could be job security for those who manage the tangled web of sign regulations in Metro.

By: on 9/29/11 at 5:06

I'll tell you what makes me unhappy, the fact that all of our former sanitation workers lost their jobs in the name of efficiency. Think of how many people are out of work that did this job. I think it's a microcosm of the joblessness we suffer with today. We traded all those jobs for a few people who drive trucks and almost always leave the garbage cans laying on the ground.