Forge reverts to old signage restrictions in amusement district

Apr. 03, 2013 @ 11:52 PM

The city commission held a work session Tuesday to discuss proposed changes to the C-5 Commercial Amusement Park District, in an attempt to address concerns related to business owners obtaining sign permits along the Parkway at the north end of town.

The changes will be on the agenda of an upcoming City Commission meeting.

The area, which includes tracts on both side of the Parkway where Tony Roma’s and Hatfield & McCoy are, was rezoned to the amusement park district at the request of a large development that was slated to move there in 2011. The rezoning was to have allowed the developer to install a 500-square-foot sign with the names of the businesses in the development, a kind of sign that wasn’t allowed under the then-current zone.

“When that (rezoning) came into effect, there were several businesses that moved out in anticipation of this development,” said Community Development Director David Taylor. “We started working with the developer down there, and nothing has happened to this point.”

Now, some of the businesses that moved out are trying to move back in, but they’re having trouble getting individual sign permits under the new zoning guideline.

“C-5 only allows the large district signs at the entrance, no individual signs,” Taylor said. “Because the development didn’t move forward and the businesses were moving back in, they couldn’t get sign permits.”

To solve the issue, the C-5 district, which provides a controlled district for amusement parks, theme parks, water parks, entertainment parks and themed resorts, is to be divided into subgroups “a” and “b.”

Subgroup “a” is for parcels of 75 contiguous acres under one ownership, such as Dollywood. Subgroup “b” is for parcels of 75 contiguous acres under multiple ownerships, such as the area in question.

Individual businesses in subgroup “b” would be allowed to have their own signs, which must be no more than 350 square feet, which is essentially what they were allowed to have before the rezoning.

“Nothing’s really changing. Basically they’re going to get the same sign they’ve always had down there,” Taylor said. “The big thing is, we’re eliminating those large district signs and allowing the individual signs.”

Dee Gallon — owner of Memories Theatre, one of the businesses that has moved back in to the area — asked if she could bring her old sign back to her location.

“I had a sign there for 20 years. The base was left when we had to move,” Gallon said. “When we had to go back to Memories — which we had to do, it wasn’t by choice — we wanted to reinstall that sign. I was told we had to go to a much smaller sign because of the rezoning, which we did, but I’m sitting with my other sign in storage. I want to know if I can put it back.”

Taylor explained that she would indeed be able to use the old sign under the new changes.

“She’s the one who’s really been impacted tremendously because of not being able to get individual signs,” Taylor said of Gallon.

Mayor David Wear asked how the changes would affect the stalled development if it showed new signs of life.

“Let’s say that the development that did not take off finally gets something together and is ready to go,” Wear said. “Is it affected by this?”

Taylor said the only way it would be affected is that it would no longer be allowed to have its large district sign.

rhargett@themountainpress.com