Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Council Passes Tygard's LED Bill Despite Impressive Public Hearing Opposition

Metro Council passed Charlie Tygard's LED bill, which arose from the request of a single church to get an LED sign on par with those on commercial sites. A public hearing was held and opponents far outnumbered the sole supporter: the Harpeth Heights Baptist pastor, who told the Council that LED would help the church get their message out.

Around a dozen opponents including representatives speaking for three neighborhood associations, Donelson-Hermitage, Hillsboro-West End, and New Hope Estates, spoke vigorously against the LED bill. They referred to LED signs as distracting and dangerous clutter. One said that the bill would turn residential areas to commercial in some neighborhoods with high numbers of churches. One of the more eloquent opponents said that the pastor should pursue specific zoning action instead of supporting a blanket bill that causes problems for other communities. They brought up the fact that opponents were barred from speaking against the bill at the Planning Commission, when that body moved it from its public hearing to the consent agenda (which also had the affect of requiring fewer Council votes to pass). Nashville Neighborhood Defense Fund representative John Summers told Council that churches are becoming less neighborhood institutions and more commercial institutions competing with other sports and education programs.

Charlie Tygard seemed defensive and a little rattled by the opposition. He seemed to turn up his volume as he told the Council that the pastor would probably disagree with opponents about "who and what needs to be known" about his congregation. He told them that he believes that all churches and schools should be given the opportunity to get "their message" to the community with LED signs.

He said that he would try to ameliorate the Planning Commission's omission of a public hearing by sponsoring a "workshop" next Tuesday at 5:30 at the Court House to help opponents understand the bill. I fail to see how that is supposed to correct the slight. At one point he told them that he has asked "representatives of the sign industry" to provide information on Tuesday that they are relatively environmentally-friendly. I assume those would be people from the Joslin Sign Company, which stands to make a lot of money if churches are allowed LED signs. So, how could that information be in any way objective or ethical?

There were several Council opponents who spoke, including Emily Evans, who named some of the streets in her district, largely residential, that would be affected by this bill (the list of affected streets in Nashville totals 7,600). Megan Barry said that she had been flooded by e-mails opposing the bill, including a number of neighborhood associations representing "thousands of Nashvillians."

The arguments of bill supporters other than Mr. Tygard were not very strong. Sam Coleman argued that if public hearing opponents wanted to oppose this they should have done it last term with the Council passed another sign resolution. That had to be the most boneheaded comment of the night. If they would have argued the merits of this bill on a previous bill the Chair would have declared them out of order. It is never too late to question obtrusive signage in neighborhoods. And then there was the problem of Jerry Maynard's possible conflict of interest. Rev. Maynard admitted that he is both the pastor of a church and a supporter of the LED bill, which seems to me to be a clear ethical dilemma for him. So, did he check with an ethicist before the vote tonight? Nope. Does he intend to check with a neutral ethicist before the 3rd reading vote? Nope. He's going to check with an immediate family member who is a lawyer. That seems to be another conflict of interest.

The Council passed the bill, but not on roll call, so if the minutes read as they did after votes last term, then they will say that all members voted for the LED bill. It was also deferred indefinitely.


  1. So by deferring it indefinitely, does that mean we all have to be on watch for Tygard suddenly bringing it back up? What can we do to defeat it?

  2. I wouldn't put anything past Charlie Tygard. My guess is that it will reappear again at an opportune moment.

    My two cents: contact your Council Member and tell them that you want them to vote against this bill on third reading unless every street in your district that is on the LED list is removed. Many recreations centers and churches sit on residential streets and the last thing residents want is a bright sign shining in their picture window at 2:00 a.m. to let them endlessly know about a chili supper next week. Also make sure that you communicate your opposition to all 5 at-Larges who are supposed to be representing you, too. It would not hurt to copy the Mayor's Office, because Dean would eventually have to sign any approved bill.

  3. Hello there...

    I am a huge fan of your work! Moreover, I was one of the people who spoke against this bill.


  4. Thank you, sir. Ya'll did a helluva job last night.

  5. The Board of Zoning Appeals this afternoon expressed a joyous sigh of relief when Sonny West informed them that they would not have to hear any more digital or LED sign appeals ( it was they who turned down Tygard's Baptist Church out in Bellevue after granting variances to YMCAs and some other churches).

    Sonny West made little reference to" opposition" and seemed confident that it will pass, although he did state that Tygard was holding a public meeting Tuesday night, 3/11/08, and that the bill will probably be split-- one for the digital signs making Metro's Code consistent with State Code, and the second being for LED signs with their red or amber scrolling messages being allowed in residential zoning districts for properties (schools, cultural centers, recreational centers, and religious institutions) located on collector or arterial streets (the full list of which is 290 pages long).