Knoxville’s Plans Review and Inspections chief Peter Ahrens was on vacation when the water tower atop the Knox Rail Salvage building got painted bright red and plastered with an “Elect Randy Boyd Governor” logo, but he heard about it as soon as he came back to work this week.

Here’s what he had to say about the big red billboard:

“The sign located on a water tower on top of the building at 501 Willow Avenue is a legally existing, non-conforming sign. The prior sign, which read “Knox Rail Salvage,” was painted on the water tower as a refacing of water tower, which did not require a permit at the time. Under the current sign code, which was adopted in 2015, roof signs are not allowed; however, signs that existed legally prior to that adoption, such as the water tower sign, are allowed to remain so long as there is no change in use on the property.

“Additionally, the current sign code includes a substitution clause that allows non-commercial signage to be placed anywhere commercial signage is allowed, subject to the same area regulations as the allowable commercial signage. Although the city of Knoxville sign ordinance includes a provision about political signage, a 2015 United States Supreme Court decision (Reed v Town of Gilbert, Arizona) precludes the city from enforcing this provision.”

Hmmm, the sign ordinance was written to protect the city, but it seems the city is hellbent to protect its ordinance.

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Written by Betty Bean