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Builder wins in sign spat with county attorney

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

A sign at the center of a dispute between a Farragut home builder and Roane County Attorney Tom McFarland is coming down.

Kingston building inspector Willie Gordon said the sign in question is within city limits and must be removed.

The Blue Springs Pontoon Boat Co. sign stands at the intersection of Lawnville Road and Ladd Landing Way.

Kingston Councilman Brant Williams said that section of right of way was annexed by the city of Kingston years ago.

City zoning laws prohibit those type of signs on city rights of way, Gordon said.

“The county has an ordinance against it, too,” Gordon said. “I don’t know why they say they don’t.”

Gordon said he picked up a copy of county zoning regulations, which states: “A fifteen (15) foot setback from property line is required for any portion of a sign.”

“That means you can’t have them on the right of way,” Gordon said.

That’s not what Roane County Attorney Tom McFarland told Bob Markli recently.

Markli demanded that the Blue Springs sign be removed from in front of his property.

McFarland said the sign was legally placed because it was on a county right of way, and he vowed to turn Markli over to the sheriff if he removed the sign.

“You can book it,” McFarland told Markli during a heated discussion the two men had over the issue at the courthouse.

McFarland also sent Markli a letter that states, “We have consulted the Roane County Highway Department and all relevant zoning laws, and find that our sign does not violate any applicable laws of Roane County, Tennessee.

In fact, Roane County allows such signs to be posted in the county right-of-way. Therefore, the sign in question is legally placed.”

Williams said Kingston City Attorney Sandy McPherson was drafting a letter to send to Blue Springs to let them know the sign must be removed.

“We’ll notify them that they need to remove it,” Gordon said.

Markli said he feels vindicated.

“Mr. McFarland was clearly wrong. He didn’t even have his jurisdiction right,” Markli said. “He said it was in the county. He said it was legally placed and it was neither.”

“It would have been illegally placed, even if it was in the county,” Markli added. “Clearly he was attempting to bully and intimidate.”

Messages left at McFarland’s office and on his cell phone were not returned by press time.   

Markli didn’t want the sign in front of his property, and he had been trying to get the issue resolved for weeks.

He even notified the county commission about the issue at its March meeting, but that got him nowhere.  

“It’s a shame that it took this long and I had to go through so many people to get what appears to be such a simple, commonsense, black-and-white issue resolved,” Markli said. “Willie Gordon and the folks at Kingston are extremely competent. They understand their laws and their ordinances and they’re enforcing them.”