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Town considers creating business districts

As work continues on a plan to makeover signage in downtown Jonesborough, it appears Tennessee’s oldest town may soon add a couple of business districts.
The revamping of downtown signage is a part of a larger streetscape plan being considered by the town. A subcommittee of the Tree and Townscape Board has been analyzing the recommendations for signage for several months.
Members have had to address the concerns of a few business owners along the way, including two local bed-and-breakfast owners who spoke against plans to take down individual business signage along Main Street and replace it with six kiosks throughout the downtown area.
The subcommittee compromised with the two owners by forging ahead with the kiosk plan but agreeing to add the word “lodging” to directional signs on Main Street.
Last month, the signage plan hit another snag when Douglas Taylor, owner of Mulberry Books on Spring Street, requested the board consider allowing him to keep his directional sign at the corner of Main and Spring streets.
Since Taylor said he has been in business for 10 years and depended on that sign to attract customers, members of the Tree and Townscape Board voted to grandfather in his sign.
Further investigation led the board to rescind the vote during its meeting on May 30.
“We found that the business actually closed in 2008. A new license was purchased about two weeks prior to our last meeting,” said John Browning, a member of both the Tree and Townscape board and the sign subcommittee. “By those facts, it really doesn’t meet the criteria — you can’t grandfather in a business that does not exist.”
While some board members expressed feelings of being misled, Browning said the issue “spurred a good idea.”
“The idea is to create these business districts with the objective of really promoting them,” Browning said. “We can do that with special kiosks.”
The subcommittee is proposing the creation of two neighboring business districts — the Mill Spring District, which represents businesses along and off of Spring Street, and Parson’s Square, which represents the businesses on Fox Street near the railroad tracks.
For the Mill Spring District, a special kiosk will be placed at the edge of Mill Spring Park, offering tourists a plethora of information on businesses further down the road. A sign would also be placed at the corner of Main and Spring streets to let visitors know about the Mill Spring District.
Parson’s Square will not get a kiosk since the businesses are within view of Main Street; however, it will get a sign on Main Street.
“We think this is a good alternative to having individual business signs that come and go, and we believe, create problems,” Browning said. “We want to encourage the growth of the business district a little bit outside of downtown.”