By Mike Steely

The Little Flat Creek Baptist Church sits on Emory Road and prides itself as being the oldest member of the local Association of Baptist Churches. Founded in 1879 the current building has a small chapel behind the church built with the original logs from the first church.

On Wednesday Pastor Jerry Baltimore went before the Knox County Board of Zoning and Appeals to ask for a variance for a new sign so the church could proudly show its history and also add a changeable bulletin board below a lighted panel.

Rev. Baltimore asked the BZA for three things: increasing the allowable square footage of the sign from 50 to 78 feet, increasing the height from 8 to 12 feet, and lighting the top of the sign internally.

The preacher found an ally in BZA Vice Chair Carson Dailey.

“I see a 40-year-old code that is harmful to you. Personally I think the code is outdated,” Dailey said. He asked the minister if he would agree to turn off the sign light at 11 p.m. and if a ten-foot height instead of 12 feet would be acceptable.

Questioned about the current requirement for directional lighting instead of internal lighting of signs a spokesman for the sign company, which is repurposing the sign for the church, said that the sign would use LED lighting and could control the amount of light.

The church sits by itself at 9132 East Emory Road with an empty field across the road. The nearest house is the church parsonage and the nearest neighbor, a church member, supports the new signage and was involved in getting the sign.

Chairman Marcus Chady told Baltimore that he needed a reason to get an exception from the standard rules and asked if topography was the reason.

BZA members quizzed the preacher about the size of the sign because the plans call for combining two signs. Rev. Baltimore said the sign will sit low to the ground and also said that illuminating the sign with a spotlight would reflect onto the road and possibly cause a driving problem.

“By having a new sign it is telling the community we are reaching forward,” he said.

Dailey moved for approval and the sign waiver passed 5-3. BZA member Kevin Murphy, who represents the 6th District where the church is located, was absent from the meeting. Voting against the waiver were Chady, Cynthia Stancil and Ron Rochelle. Voting with Dailey were Dennis and Bill Sewell, Terri Karr, and Bill McSpadden.

“Sometimes when you visit a site it is totally different,” Dailey said, referring to applications, maps and photos that are submitted to the BZA.

“Churches these days are a business and need to advertise,” he added and then motioned to approve the sign height at 10 feet, which passed 5-3.

The internal LED lighting of the sign then came into discussion and Dailey sought the advice of the codes enforcement department. He then moved to permit the internal lighting of the upper part of the sign if church agrees to turn the sign off at 11 p.m. each evening and limit the amount of candlepower visible at the road. That also passed 5-3.

The BZA also heard from the Solway United Methodist Church and granted a waiver for the church to add some property to their location and allow a 17-foot setback. The church is located at 3300 Guinn Road..