By Mike Steely
There are more than 120 neighborhoods in Knoxville and each one wants some type of recognition. One of the most visible ways to welcome visitors and brag about the community is a neighborhood sign or two.
The process of designing, building and placing signs at the entrances to a neighborhood is more than just deciding to do it. Whether it’s a brand new sign or replacing an existing sign the process involves some planning and some approval from the city.
The South Woodlawn Neighborhood residents were the latest to gain such approval, according to Neighborhood Coordinator Debbie Sharp, and placed four signs. Sharp said the neighborhood used funds they received from the Neighborhood Small Grant Program funds to help with their effort.
The Knoxville Office of Neighborhood Empowerment can help neighborhoods navigate the process and the applications involved for approval.
The first step in acquiring a sign permit is to be recognized by the city as an official neighborhood.
Signs within an H-1 Historic Overlay area must receive a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Zoning Commission.
Where the neighborhood signs will be located determines the steps needed for approval. Will the sign be on private property or on a city right-of-way?
Most neighborhood signs are placed on private property, outside the city’s right-of-way. Those permits must be applied for through the Plans Review and Inspection Department. Applications are available on the internet at the Office of Neighborhoods site. Questions can be directed to Brandon Littlejohn or Beth Goodman at (865) 215-3669.
Neighborhoods with 25 lots or less cannot have an entrance sign. The city’s standard sign regulations apply: the maximum height is six feet and the total sign can be no more than 36 square feet. Signs must be at least 10 feet from the right-of-way and can be externally lighted.
A rendering of the sign is required along with a notarized permission of the land owner. A $75 application fee is charged along with a $5 fee for every $1,000 of construction cost. Permits expire one year after being issued.
Once approved the organization must call 811 to have the area marked for underground utilities. The telephone number for the inspection is (865)215-4830.
The steps for a sign on a right-of-way are different. Signs cannot block the sight distance of vehicles and cannot be placed on state or national routes. Adjoining land owners must give permission and only wooden posts may be used. The maximum height is six feet and the sign cannot be larger than 36 square feet. Neighborhoods must be in “good standing” with the Office of Neighborhoods and no commercial advertising is permitted on the sign. The Department of Engineering reviews the request and the site.
The permit may be downloaded on the Office of Neighborhood website or Debbie Sharp can be called at (865)215-4382.