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Commission taking hard look at open signs in Jonesborough’s historic district

An open sign is a telltale signal to potential customers that a business is, well, open.
But that could soon change in the historic district of downtown, where members of the Historic Zoning Commission are considering whether they need to regulate just what kinds of open signs can be used.
At a meeting of the HZC held earlier this month, Dr. William Kennedy brought up the issue after he said he had received two or three complaints regarding the open sign hanging in the shop window of The Crazy Cupcake on Main Street.
“The thing that probably drew attention to the sign was that it was flashing,” Kennedy said. “But they turned the flashing off as soon as I mentioned it to them.”
The HZC does not typically concern itself with approving or disapproving open signs within the historic district. Instead, the commission focuses on the larger signs at a shop, such as the store’s main sign or banners advertising the business.
“Most of the open signs are very inconspicuous,” Kennedy said. “So we don’t usually worry about them.”
The Crazy Cupcake’s plastic open sign, which hangs in the storefront window and includes the shop’s hours of operation, is illuminated by one bulb.
According to a guideline of the HZC, internally illuminated signs are not permitted. However, Kennedy said the guideline is aimed at a much different kind of sign, one that was used in the 1970s but is no longer typically utilized. He pointed out that several other businesses in the historic district, including Another Touch Bakery and the Lavender Shop, have open signs similar to that of The Crazy Cupcake.
“You can hardly ask (The Crazy Cupcake) to take down the sign when there are others similar that we’re not asking to be taken down,” said Nancy Hedberg, a member of the HZC.
William Stout, another HZC member, agreed and noted that an open sign is vital to any business.
“You have to send some kind of signal of your presence if you are a business,” Stout said. “I sometimes wonder if our guidelines are keeping up with the times.”
Commission members agreed to take a look at sign guidelines to determine if they need to be updated and also agreed that a decision must be made as to whether businesses in the historic district should be forced to come to the HZC for approval on what kind of open sign they plan to use at their stores.
The discussion is expected to continue at a July meeting of the commission.