After nearly four years of planning, Knoxville has a new sign ordinance for new on-premise signs that is designed to prevent the kind of clutter in this picture.  Saddled for years with an outdated ordinance that allowed 50 ft signs almost everywhere, Knoxville’s commercial corridors are teeming with ugly sign clutter.  The new ordinance, passed by City Council in July, will result in a more scenic city in the near future and beyond. (State law prohibits amortization of existing signs.)

The ordinance received widespread support from the community and over 400 people reached out to City Council to request a substantial reduction in sign clutter and a significant improvement in the city’s appearance.  This outpouring of support played a key role in realizing an ordinance written to beautify our streetscapes while still communicating essential information to the public.

These are the new provisions that will have the biggest impact.  (New off-premise signs, usually billboards, were banned in 2001.  As a result of efforts initiated by Scenic Knoxville, the conversion of billboards to digital technology was banned in 2008 and new on-premise digital signs were banned in 2009.)

1. Four different sign heights, determined by the type of roadway on which the sign is
     a. Property within 500 ft of an interstate interchange - maximum height is 35 ft
     b. Property adjacent to an interstate right-of-way - maximum height is 30 ft
     c. Property fronting on federally designated highways - maximum height is 20 ft
        (includes Chapman Highway, Henley St., Broadway, Kingston Pike, Asheville
    Highway, Rutledge Pike, Clinton Highway, and Alcoa Highway)
     d. All other roadway classifications - maximum height is 10 ft
2. Smaller sign faces, including freestanding ground signs and wall signs that are
    attached to a building
3. Protection for our city’s designated Scenic Highways (maximum of 6-ft
    monument signs)
4. Protection for office districts (maximum of 6-ft monument signs)
5. A procedure to remove dozens, possibly hundreds, of abandoned signs throughout
    the city, including removal of older signs that don’t conform to the new code more

6. The replacement of signs that don’t conform to the new code when there’s a change
    in use of the property

7. A requirement that all signs be well maintained and that ground signs be surrounded
    by landscaping

This well-thought out ordinance is about more than just the appearance of our signs.  It’s one component of the vision we hold for the future of our city.  Successful communities pay attention to aesthetics.  Attractive cities inspire pride and invite new residents, tourists and high quality commercial investment.  They create higher property values and greater economic prosperity, benefiting residents and business alike.  

Other communities are already looking at Knoxville’s new ordinance as a model for their own. Our new sign ordinance is a major accomplishment and one more reason to be proud of our City.

Scenic Knoxville is partnering with the city to identify abandoned signs like these. These signs no longer advertise an existing business.  If you see an abandoned sign please help by sending a photograph, along with the address of the sign, to