Cleveland, Tenn., planners propose rules for interstate advertising

photo Motorists pass an elevated Exxon sign along Interstate 75 near exit 20 in Bradley County.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Larger but fewer and more aesthetically pleasing business signs may be in the works for Cleveland's Interstate 75 exits.

The Cleveland Planning Commission last week recommended a draft ordinance on key changes to I-75 interchange sign regulations be submitted to the city council for review.

The ordinance would regulate large, tall signs on commercial or industrial property that advertise businesses on that land, not billboards or federally regulated signs indicating gas, food and lodging at upcoming exits.

Safety issues played a role in the recommended changes, said Director Jonathan Jobe of the city's Development & Engineering Services Department.

"The signs are safer if they are larger" because interstate drivers will not have to strain as much to see them, he said.

The suggested regulations also aim to reduce sign clutter by requiring minimum acreage for any given sign; the larger the sign, the larger the property on which it would be posted.

The proposed changes especially should appeal to merchants sharing a common parcel of land, such as a plaza, according to Jobe.

Looking forward, the expanded sign regulations will assist with expected development near Exit 20 on I-75, he said.

Current regulations limit interstate signage to 350 square feet of display area, senior planner Paul Corder said. Changeable copy, such as LED readouts used to display gasoline prices, is limited to 50 square feet.

The draft ordinance proposes a three-tiered system that will require more merchant advertisers per sign, but allows the changeable display area to increase proportionally with a sign's overall size.

The proposed regulations apply to commercially or industrially zoned property within 1,000 feet of an interstate interchange that is entitled to an interstate-oriented sign of at least 75 feet in height, providing that no other property signage exceeds 60 feet in height.

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The maximum display area for any sign, according to the proposed ordinance, will be 1,000 square feet, which may include up to 300 square feet of changeable copy. The largest sign category requires a minimum of three business advertisers and four acres of commercial or industrial property.

The next largest sign tier allows up to 600 square feet in overall display area, including up to 200 square feet in changeable copy. These signs must have at least two advertising businesses and should be placed on property of at least three acres.

The smallest signs may measure up to 350 square feet of display area, including up to 100 square feet of changeable copy. The minimum site size is two acres.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at