Goat-themed business approved

Officials debate whether animals considered as signs
Jan. 24, 2013 @ 12:09 AM

Is a goat a sign?

That's not a trick question. It was debated Tuesday at City Hall as the Board of Zoning Appeals considered and approved a business proposed for Wears Valley Drive.

The attraction, identified on the board's agenda as Ross Ogle's Gem Mine and Gift Shop, will have a unique feature: live goats on the roof. The business is a franchise of the Tiger, Ga., establishment Goats on the Roof.

By inserting coins, visitors will activate a device that feeds grain to the goats. "It's a money-maker for the business and a delight for the kids," said Bruce Rutherford of SRA Architects. He made the case for the business to the board.

People driving past the business will see the goats and want to stop, Rutherford said.

At issue was whether the goats constitute theming, as defined by city ordinances governing signs. Community development director David Taylor argued that the goats are indeed a theming element, and as such they would exceed the amount of signage allowed for the property.

Commissioner Judy Harrell agreed. "Signs are to attract, and your goats are attracting," she said.

Rutherford took a narrower view. "I'm asking the board to call signs signs," he said.

Last month the board tabled an item about the goat business so that Taylor could gather more information. At Tuesday's meeting, he showed photographs of the Georgia attraction. One picture was of goat droppings.

"What's that?" asked commissioner Jay Ogle, wryly.

"Theming," someone responded from the gallery, also wryly.

After the board approved the goat business, Sevier County Humane Society executive director Jayne Vaughn spoke.

"I would like to be on the record that the Humane Society is not in favor of this," she said. "We're concerned it paints an unfavorable image of Pigeon Forge. We're concerned about the welfare of the animals. It's not natural for goats to be on the roof. We think it's in very poor taste."

Because the board approved the business, Vaughn said, "We will work with Mr. [Ross] Ogle to make sure the goats are cared for as well as can be expected."

The goats were the board's only item of business. The Planning Commission, which met immediately before the board, reelected Chairman Bill Bradley, Vice Chair Robert Young and Commissioner Jay Ogle to their positions. The commission also approved:

- The Preserving the Mountain in Me 5K run/walk for April 27

- The 5K in May race for May 4

- Heritage Carriage Rides at Walden's Landing in February

- City services for land the city is annexing in the new Wear Farm City Park

kburns@themountainpress.com