Planning commission continues talks on temporary structures

Vicky Newman News Herald

A traveling evangelist gets permission to hold an old-fashioned tent revival on an individual's private property, but city officials shut it down. A farmer with more squash and tomatoes than he can use pulls his pickup onto the side of a street, sits in a folding chair under a small canopy to sell his produce. It is something his father and grandfather always did with no problem, but he learns it is no longer allowed.

Whether it's a carnival, circus, rodeo, backyard wedding, birthday party or an anniversary celebration, events requiring special seasonal or temporary structures are not allowed in Loudon under the existing zoning ordinance. The Loudon Planning Commission has attempted for months to forge a proposed amendment to the city's zoning ordinance to address temporary structures in commercial and/or residential zones.

The commission began working on a draft ordinance that would address seasonal and event temporary structures about six months ago. A committee comprising commissioners John Cardwell and Ken Brewster, as well as Planning Director Russ Newman and Building Codes Inspector Rondel Branum have produced a draft proposed ordinance amendment. The ordinance was discussed by the commission at length Wednesday, June 1, but did not approve the document yet for submission to the Loudon City Council. Newman said several revisions were discussed and modifications will need to be made, and other parts of the document reviewed before it can be approved for submission to council members.

According to Commissioner Carlie McEachern, the current disallowance of temporary structures in the zoning ordinance resulted because some banks in the past started business in mobile units, and then abandoned plans to build permanent structures.

The proposed ordinance will provide for granting of a temporary use permit for items such as:
carnival or circus,
Christmas tree sales,
temporary buildings,
real estate sales offices,
religious tent meetings,
seasonal produce sales,
portable storage containers,
retail sales events,
temporary outdoor sales of food or retail merchandise, and
special events or miscellaneous assemblies.

Any event sponsored by the City of Loudon, Loudon County, Loudon County Schools  or Lenoir City Schools, or weddings, funerals, or religious ceremonies at churches, cemeteries or private facilities or residences would be exempted from permit requirements.

Temporary Use Permits, under the proposal, may be issued for up to one year, but two six-month extensions may be granted. Each category has limitations and restrictions pertaining to that particular site, citing such things as required setbacks, public rights of way, zones in which the event permit is allowed and hours allowed. Traffic control measures may be required by the City of Loudon Police Department.

The temporary outdoor sales of food or retail merchandise would require a $500 deposit with the Codes Enforcement Officer. The deposit will be refunded if the site is properly cleared and cleaned within a specified time. In addition to forfeiting the deposit, if the permit holder fails to clear the site properly, he or she will not be allowed another temporary vendor permit for six months, first offense; 12 months, second offense; and 18 months, third and subsequent offenses.

Temporary structures in any commercial district except C-3, provided there is adequate parking and the structure is located 100 feet from a residential district. However, the proposed temporary use must not be materially detrimental to the public welfare or be injurous to property or improvements in the immediate vicinity. It must be compatible with existing land use and not otherwise allowable in the zone in which it is proposed.