Ellen Smith for Oak Ridge Rotating Header Image

Signs should help businesses reach customers — and they shouldn’t be ugly

Possibly the worst kind of signage: out-of-town businesses that stick illegal signs in front of Oak Ridge businesses

Possibly the worst signage: out-of-town businesses that stick illegal signs in front of Oak Ridge businesses

The last item on the Chamber of Commerce questionnaire was an open-ended question:
Do you have any other issues you would like to address?

My response: I support the city sign ordinance. It helps to maintain the kind of esthetics that I believe people look for in a high-quality community. The visual clutter from competing signs that I see on the streets of some other area communities isn’t good for anybody – it’s ugly, and everyone’s messages get lost in the clutter of many competing signs.

However, I have heard and am sympathetic to the concerns of businesses that lack the visibility they need to help customers find them, the difficulty people have in interpreting the rules about signs, and the impression that certain businesses are allowed to have much better signage than their competitors. I hope that city government and the business community can work together to revamp the sign ordinance so that it allows businesses to have the visibility they need to reach customers, while maintaining esthetics.



  1. Jim Nelson says:


    What’s your take on “moving” signs which include messages that have nothing to do w/ the business itself? I’m thinking of Eddie Hair’s sign, which includes religious messages.


  2. Ellen Smith says:

    Interesting question, Jim.

    The sign ordinance is premised on an assumption that the purpose of business signs is to provide information about the business.

    I imagine Mr. Hair might say that the religious messages on his sign do, in fact, give customers information about the nature of the business. Who’s to say otherwise?

    Some businesses have used their electronic signs to promote events such as high school plays. That’s widely regarded as a good thing, but your comment leads me to propose that those kinds of messages should not be displayed very often. Business messages should predominate — otherwise, the business sign could effectively become a freestanding billboard.

  3. I understand having signage vs looking like the Den where voting happened a few months ago.
    The City supports signage like that but ties the hands of businesses?

    My beef currently is Medicare Season is 7 weeks long (ends Dec 7th) and HealthCare (under 65) ends Feb 15th. I can ONLY have a big sign up in the grass for 14 days in a quarter…

    And I am not having any luck having my land lord trim the trees back so the marque can be seen from the road.

    I am not trying to get anything overly large up, but even directional signs are limited to being so small that when you are going 45 mph on the turnpike, you do not have enough time to see, comprehend and react to the arrow on the sign.

    I welcome you to come down towards A&W Plaza and look for the HealthMarkets sign or the Health Care Enrollment Center sign

    Good Luck in the election!

  4. Ellen Smith says:

    Yes, directional signs and center directories need to be big enough to be readable. Some of our strip centers have directory signs that list so many businesses in such a small space that you almost have to be standing in front of them to read them.

    I hope that we can keep your business in the city of Oak Ridge, David. Is it time for a negotiation with city staff, with an elected official present?

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