By Jim Young
While the April Crossville City Council meeting was generally a calm one, there were some fireworks on the agenda.
Those fireworks are for the Fourth of July celebration at Crossville's Centennial Park, though, and, after nearly losing the celebration last year, the fireworks were put in the budget for this year and the bid received from Pyro Shows was approved during the meeting.
Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III began the discussion by reminding the council members that in 2013 the city asked for citizens to donate funds to help pay for the fireworks program, as funds for the program had been completely removed from the budget. The city had agreed to match funds raised toward the program.
Graham continued, “I don't feel like personally that the city budget, as far as revenue is concerned, is in any better off today then it was a year ago. I'd like to open the floor for further discussion.”
Discussion of the matter included the possibility of reducing the cost from the bid $30,000 to a smaller amount. The council wanted to make sure to reserve the date so as not to lose the company to another show. In 2013, community donations totaled some $5,000 and the city covered the balance of a $25,000 fireworks display.
The amount reserved for he fireworks in the current budget totals $30,000, with other money budgeted for the other entertainment and events of the day.
Graham commented that the Fourth of July event fireworks show is “one of the most important events of the city of Crossville, without question. There's a lot of folks in our city and our community that would not celebrate the Fourth of July adequately without the fireworks show. I think its one of the most important things the city does.”
Councilman Jesse Kerley agreed, saying, “There’s a lot of people that enjoy our fireworks show from across the county and we collect a lot of sales tax.”
Kerley then moved to approve the fireworks show. Graham supported the motion and it passed by unanimous voice vote.
The council approved the third and final reading of an ordinance amending two sections of the sign code for the city of Crossville that allows the council to sit as a sign board and decide on variances, including those from property annexed into the city limits that have a billboards on the property.
Councilman Pete Souza said he had a problem with automatically assuming any signs on a property are OK after annexing. “I can't support the change in that area,” said Souza.
City manager David Rutherford explained that the city had no provision in its sign ordinance to deal with annexed properties. Those properties with signs on them will have to have a variance or the signs will have to be brought up to the city's code.
The ordinance is related to a recent annexation at the corner of Lantana Road and Dunbar Road that currently has several billboards on it.
Speaking about the issue, Kathy Tipton, with the group Friends of Peavine Road, said her group's interest was strictly in scenic parkways and Lantana Road is designated as a scenic parkway, along with other area highways including Hwy. 70N, Hwy. 70, Hwy. 28, Hwy. 68 and Hwy. 127 S.
Tipton continued that the parkway regulations limit billboards outside of city limits. In September 2013, Tipton contacted the Tennessee Department of Transportation and they determined the signs located at Lantana and Dunbar were in violation and illegal. TDOT sent the owners a letter that the signs needed to be removed and then the property owners requested annexation from the city.
Following the annexation, it was determined that an amendment to the sign code was needed to allow the signs to remain. Tipton said that the existing sign code would grandfather illegally erected signs on annexed property.
Tipton summed up her thoughts, “Allowing a sign to remain that the city knows was erected in violation of state law, in my opinion, exposes the city open to risk in that the city would not want to incentivize or encourage county property owners to violate state law with the understanding that the city would then annex them with no questions asked.”
Tipton asked the council to delay any action and to not approve the changes to the ordinances.
Councilman George Marlow said he felt the matter should be tabled for City Manager David Rutherford to determine if the signs were legal or not. Souza also said he would like the item tabled.
Kerley said the question he had was were the billboards on Lantana Road or were they on Dunbar road? Councilman Danny Wyatt also said he wanted to go ahead and act on the matter.
Kerley made the motion, seconded by Graham, to approve the final reading of the ordinance and the motion passed with 4 yes votes and Souza abstaining.