Collection of Peavine ‘Signs Gone Wild’ gets TDOT’s attention
By Jim Arber
For The Vista
Most of us that read the Vista already know about the Feral Pig problem.
(By the way, the pigs must have been made aware of their notoriety because it seems they’ve been pretty quiet of late. Nobody ever accused pigs of being stupid) …
As y’all know, In addition to the feral pigs, we have other problems here. Some are big, some are nonsense.
One has most Gladers, Gladettes and Gladesters even more upset — I’m talking about the “Signs Gone Wild” along Peavine Road.
Most of them are Pig Ugly (PU) signs. Yes, Peavine and Fairfield Glade are victims of Feral Signs. The first time you travel down Peavine to the Glade you might think you’re on the road to Dog Patch rather than to a lovely resort community.
How many folks have been turned off by those PU signs and simply turned around and left? Off to Tellico or some other unworthy place they went just because it looks so trashy on the road here. We’ll never know the real number and it is certainly not good for Cumberland County or Fairfield Glade. A shame.
It’s not as if a solution to the problem has not been sought. Three years ago a group was formed named PAPA (People About Peavine Advertising). This was populated by a group of concerned residents determined to do something about those signs. They circulated a petition and had it signed by 3,000 voters.
They met with the local commissioners twice and communicated with all Cumberland county commissioners. Reportedly they went all the way to the Governor and TDOT, all to no avail.
The answer at that time was that since Peavine was a secondary road, the county was responsible. Since there is no zoning or a sign ordinance in place the whole project fell into a black hole.
Recently several county commissioners were contacted again about this problem. Most contacted understood the angst generated by those PUS’s. Since the commissioners are elected, however, they’re not anxious to do something that their constituents deem a bad thing. Feeling on the Plateau is that private property rights are unassailable, that’s understandable. The proposal forwarded however was not to limit the number of signs on private property, it was not to eliminate a source of revenue from sign location rental, it was to hold these signs to a standard that would make them more attractive.
Simple right? No, not so simple and very hard to implement.
First, a standard for signage must be established. After that it would take some legwork and elbow grease to get the thing voted on by the commissioners. There are 18 county commissioners here. That’s enough for a county of millions. We have around 65,000.
The vast majority of these 18 commissioners so far have shown no interest in improving our roadways and have not acted on this problem save for a few sympathetic words.
But wait, there is something else. A recent request for information about state owned right of way land got this response from TDOT in mid-June of this year:
“By law nothing can be built on state Right of Way. ,” a TDOT source said. “No unauthorized signs can be placed there either. By unauthorized, I mean anything else other than TDOT signs, such as directional signage, speed limit signs, etc.
“There are reasons for this, other than the simple fact that the state owns the property. The roadway R.O.W. (right of way) should be clear of any obstructions that might be struck by vehicles in the event of a crash.
“Also, the R.O.W. needs to be kept clear of unauthorized signs because there can be sight distance problems when a sign is put in the wrong place, i.e. intersections where sight distance is critical for safe driving.
“Although our larger signs may look like they could be dangerous should they be struck by a vehicle, they are actually installed on what we call break-away posts designed to do exactly what the name implies -— break at a specific point rather than be an immoveable object should they be struck by a vehicle. Local law enforcement or the THP are authorized to enforce the R.O.W. law.”
My reading of this indicates that since the state owns the land they have not only the right but also the responsibility to enforce this R.O.W. law.
This law that was written to make roadways safer. What happens is some poor old Glader gets distracted by a sign and has an accident? Some attorney could probably take a long vacation.
It’s fair to say that if this law were enforced it would eliminate much of the ugly sign problem.
Several TDOT and State government officials have been contacted about this including Rep. Cameron Sexton, Doug Gunnels; Executive Admin Assistant/Legislative Services, Gary King; Project Manager, Jennifer Flynn; TDOT Public Affairs and others.
On July 20, we received a communication from Mr. Doug Gunnels via Rep. Cameron Sexton that revealed a change in position about R.O.W. signs!
Until now, the law that makes it illegal to erect signs in state owned right of way has been ignored. No longer. The following outlines the new position TDOT has put into effect.
Some sign locations that are legal now will not be legal when the new, wider ROW is finalized.
Those owners will be compensated by TDOT for their relocation to private property.
Sign locations that are not legal now, those that were erected illegally on state property, will not receive compensation from the state. Those owners will be sent an encroachment letter with a deadline to remove the illegal signs.
Voila! This certainly will not remove ALL the PU signs but will go a long, long way to make Peavine more appealing. I’m sure we all find this most gratifying. Hooray!
Jim Arber is a freelance writer and leisure professional living in Cumberland County. He can be reached at jim.ward21@[email protected]