Gretchen Bilbro 0

Stop Over-Regulation of Murfreesboro Small Business Signage

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The Murfreesboro Planning Commission is proposing changes to the current sign ordinances, which are set to be passed on to the Murfreesboro City Council. While the majority of proposed changes help simplify current regulations, one proposed change effectively eliminates a business owner's ability to control the signage in their own building.

The proposed sign ordinance creates a "safety zone," an area that spans from three feet above ground level to six feet above ground level. The ordinance prevents business owners from posting any signage inside of the "safety zone," including business names, logos, and hours of operation, as well as signage for local community events and non-profit organizations. The proposal prevents businesses from promoting both their own services and community events in this zone.

Advocates of the proposed restriction on small businesses cite the need for visibility into local businesses as the catalyst for change, which allegedly provides safety for police and fire officers. However, the measure fails to adequately provide such visibility because it does not limit curtains, shades or interior displays, which may entirely cover the interior of business windows. Even if the proposed visibility did promote safety, this ordinance guarantees no such visibility.

Local business owners who oppose further government regulation of their businesses see the proposed ordinance as a governmental overreach, which limits the marketing ability of Murfreesboro businesses. In practice, the proposed ordinance regulates space that is owned and paid for by private citizens and creates a burden on local business owners who already have signage and advertisements posted in their businesses. If passed, the ordinance will take effect immediately and businesses will have 1 year to comply; the proposed changes will not grandfather current business signage. Further, the proposed ordinance raises questions about the First Amendment free speech rights of local business owners, as the ordinance allows the government to tell a business owner where they can and cannot post certain signage.

We ask that you join the discussion about the rights of small business owners and the overreach of local government into the private conduct of local businesses.

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