***Quick Update 12/15/12***
Meetings and action on this entire matter have been temporarily suspended until after the holidays. The 18 businesses who received notices will be contacted (if they haven’t already) by the community development department who will let them know that they do not need to take action about their signs at this time.
Additionally, I have been contacted by the Chamber of Commerce President, Parker Hardy. He wanted to make sure that I and the public knew that only Chamber committee members would be allowed to participate in the January 3rd forum I referenced below:
Dear Trina –
I’ve read your recent blog regarding the sign ordinance in which you mention the Chamber’s Development Forum meeting scheduled in January.
That meeting is a committee of the Chamber and is not open to the public or to the news media.
If I can clarify, please call.
Parker Hardy, CCE
Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce
All of our local newspapers and even a local tv station are running a story about notices sent out to some of our small businesses regarding their electronic signs. You can read about it here and here.
My initial reaction was one of confusion since council removed an amended ordinance regarding electronic signs from our agenda this past Monday. In my mind, no notices should have gone out since council did not have the public hearing so we in no way could have approved the change in ordinance. What’s more is that Mr. Stevens’ notice is dated Dec 6, 2012. Our meeting did not occur until Dec 10, 2012.
I requested that our city manager provide council with an initial step of corrective action by the end of the day yesterday (when the story broke.) The dialogue has continued through today and you can read our communications below. Small businesses are invited to meet with Ms. Baldwin early next week. If you would like to participate, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will let you know of a date and time when it is set.
Additionally, the ordinance change will be reviewed by the Planning Commission (an unelected, non-employee body appointed by council) next Thursday, Dec 20, 2012 at the municipal building from 5:30-6:30 p.m. The Chamber of Commerce Developers Forum will also hold a forum as well on January 3rd.
Given the volume of complaints we’ve heard about our sign ordinances and the manner in which they are enforced, I see this as a grand opportunity for the public. Please consider sharing your ideas on how the city can improve how we serve our much appreciated and much needed businesses. You can do so by commenting here, attending the above referenced meetings or by emailing all of council here.
P.S. I will attempt to attend the meetings that I am able and will provide updates as time allows.
From: Trina Baughn [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 12:43 PM
To: ‘Watson, Mark’; ‘Tom Beehan’; ‘Hensley, Charles’; ‘Hope, Chuck’; ‘David Mosby (aol)’; ‘Jane Miller (Comcast)’; ‘Anne Garcia Garland’
Subject: RE: Electronic Reader Board Sign
I received a call from Mr. Stevens this morning. He is requesting documentation that substantiates Kathryn’s claims in the KNS:
“She said Stevens has previously been cited for his reader sign, and the violation notice didn’t involve his plan to post an electronic Santa on it.”
“The city has fielded numerous complaints about the signs ‘from motorists and residents alike’”
Please provide council with the details of the complaints Ms. Baldwin claims to have received along with copies of the other notices she sent Mr. Stevens.
Also, in the Oak Ridger she is quoted as saying that current regulations do not allow for flashing, blinking, movement, animation or undulating light.” If true, why were any of the 18 existing businesses given permission in the first place to erect their signs? Also, did they pay a fee to the city to have a permit for these signs and, if so, how much was that fee?
The notice that the city sent Mr. Stevens states that he has “10 business days” to remedy the situation or face “court action.” Please explain why we are using such harsh language in a first notice towards our small businesses, many of whom have had these signs (with our permission) in place for years. Also, please explain precisely what we were asking these businesses to do in order to comply.
From: Watson, Mark [mailto:MWatson@oakridgetn.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 4:01 PM
To: Tom Beehn; Hensley, Charles; Hope, Chuck; Trina Baughn; David Mosby (aol); Jane Miller (Comcast); Anne Garcia Garland
Subject: Fw: Electronic Reader Board Sign
I am forwarding a note from Kathryn Baldwin who has been handling a number of inquiries regarding the electronic signs. With the WBIR report last night, i understand there has been a lot of response toward the Two Rivers Car Care facilities. Kathryn has met with them and will do so again if you receive any other concerns, please call me or Kathryn. I am at the ECA meeting in New Orleans the rest of the week but am checking messages and phone messages. Thanks.
We’ve received several calls today in reference to notices sent our regarding Electronic Reader Board Signs. There are 18 business with reader board signs. Not all are in violation, several are significantly in violation while many are somewhere in between. Everyone I’ve spoken with yesterday and today have been cordial but are very interested in amendments proposed to the ordinance which may affect their signage. I’ve also explained that any violation notices received fall under the provisions currently in effect. Folks have also inquired how they can be involved in the process of amending the current sign ordinance. At this time the issue will be discussed in the December 20th Planning Commission meeting and the OR Chamber of Commerce Developers Forum on January 3, 2013. In my conversation with Tony Stevens, owner of Two Rivers Car Care, I requested that we meet either Monday/Tuesday of next week to discuss the issue. I also asked him to invite any business owners he knows that have concerns to the meeting as well. Following our conversation he changed his sign to read “Happy Holidays to All”. I should add that both the News Sentinel and The Oak Ridger plan stories later this week.
Please call If you have further questions.