Thursday, May 14, 2009

Neighborhood Associations Ramp Up Netroots Effort Against Charlie Tygard's LED-Billboards-in-Neighborhoods Bill

From leaders in the Woodlawn and Hillsboro West End Neighborhood Associations:

Based on my feedback, I believe that most of the neighborhoods across the city do not want LED signs in residential neighborhoods, period.  It is my hope that we can somehow unite over the next two months so that our voices will be heard by Metro Council and the Planning Commission on this and/or any other issue.  I am trying to put together an e-mail list of neighborhood associations/leaders so we can devise both a strategy and plan for effective communication amongst ourselves in order to organize as a collective group of neighborhood associations across the city.  We need a strong showing at the Public Hearing July 7.



Bell Lowe Newton, President

Woodlawn Area Neighborhood Association

3950 Woodlawn Drive

Nashville, TN.  37205




From Burkley Allen, LED Task Force, today, May 14:


Councilman Charlie Tygard has filed a new LED sign ordinance that will come before council on first reading May 19.  The council public hearing is scheduled for July 7.  Most likely the planning commission hearing will be June 11 or 25.  This bill is very similar to the task force draft. 


 The good things in the ordinance are controls on LED signs in light commercial and residential areas including:


  • Signs are allowed in residential only at community education facilities, cultural centers, recreation centers, and religious institutions and will have to go through the Special Exception process before the BZA.
  • Outside of the heavy commercial areas, LED signs will have to also be subject to a number of restrictions (see below)
  • LED signs can only replace existing legally lit signs.
  • LED signs must be 500 feet apart.
  • LED signs must be 250 feet from an existing residence (the building, not the property line)
  • LED signs must be turned off after 10 PM.
  • LED signs must automatically dim after dark.
  • LED signs must be monument type, not pole mounted.
  • Only amber colored lights can be used in LED signs.

The same restrictions on staying static for 8 seconds that apply to the LED signs allowed by right in heavy commercial areas apply to these areas as well.



The parts of the draft that I am not satisfied with deal primarily with the opening up of every zoning district including all residential and agricultural areas in Nashville to the possibility of LED signs.  None of Nashville’s peer cities that the planning staff researched allowed LED signs everywhere.  Nashville would be setting the precedent that other cities have so far seen fit to avoid.


Although the BZA has the latitude to determine that an LED sign would be detrimental to the neighborhood, it would have to be a traffic hazard or to “impair reasonable long term use of adjacent properties.”  It is not sufficient  that 100 neighbors showed up to protest.



I believe that a reasonable compromise might be to allow the expansion into the remaining commercial, office, and shopping areas (and maybe even mixed used) with the limitations described above, but that agricultural and residential areas need to stay LED free. 


Now is the time to spread this information to your respective neighborhoods.  I think it would be worthwhile to send letters to all council members, and state very plainly that you oppose LED signs in neighborhoods even with these protections.  It is important to state that you understand the difference between these signs with all their protections  and video signs or billboards.  Mr. Tygard continues to state that the people who write him are confusing all types of signs and think he is trying to put moving video screens on every street.  Your letters will be most effective if you explain that you don't think a monument type LED sign with amber letters is appropriate for neighborhoods even if it does turn off at 10 PM, and that you are concerned about enforcement since there are over 50 signs that have been determined to be out of compliance with the existing ordinance.  Stating facts will work better than ranting or making personal jabs at this point.


In addition to writing councilmembers, we need to involve neighborhoods in other parts of the city.  So far, most of the communications have come from West Nashville.  Please spread this information to your counterparts in east, north, and south Nashville.  We also need to plan for a strong showing at the council public hearing on July 7.  Please let me know if you would be willing to help organize this.


It would be a really handy tool to have a long list of locations where the 250 foot setback  will still allow LED signs in neighborhoods.  I've already heard about some locations in West Meade.  I was told that this would affect very few properties in residential areas.  I am not convinced that is the case and would appreciate your help in identifying where the future signs might pop up.


Thanks for your concern about this.  I've saved everyone's comments sent in during the task force process and intend to forward them to the council at the appropriate time.



Burkley Allen


Hillsboro West End Neighborhood

For its part the Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association has already voted to oppose LED billboards in neighborhoods. Now we just need to encourage District 19 council member, Erica Gilmore, and 4 of our 5 at-Large members vote against it on every reading.

If you would like your neighborhood to be included among the opposition to placing commercial-style LED billboards in neighborhoods, contact Bell through her information above.


  1. Scenic America has some excellent information regarding digital billboards.

  2. Don't cave in and allow these signs in Nashville. Not in neighborhoods, not in commercial, not anywhere. They are hideous, distasteful, not to mention distracting to drivers.

    The LED signs that they have now are operating illegally and there will never be enough Codes people to enforce them.

    Once the genie is out of the bottle, she 's not going back in. Do you think Charlie Tygard will stop once he begins to get what he wants for Bobby Joslin?

    Future generations, who might want a glimpse of the moon and stars, are counting on us to fight them off!!