If, as the well-known aphorism says, patriotism if the last refuge of the scoundrel, more and more, the Memphis and Shelby County Board of Adjustment is becoming the last refuge of zoning scoundrels.

It’s become the go to public board for anyone who wants to protect billboards and to make a mockery of the intent and spirit of the Memphis and Shelby County Unified Development Code.

The board likely already has its rubber stamp out while awaiting yet another request to keep a visually jarring billboard in a neighborhood that deserves better, and more thoughtful, treatment from its city’s planners.

Next up on January 22  at 2:30 is an Office of Planning and Development staff report that recommends approval of a variance allowing the billboard on Central Avenue at Cooper Street to remain in place.

The OPD staff report recommends approval of a variance to allow the billboard to remain although the Unified Development Code says it must be taken down and removed from the property when the site is redeveloped.

The OPD staff report gives the following reasons:

* The billboard company owns the sign.  That is the case with all billboards throughout the City and County, so it’s tantamount to suggesting all billboards should stsay.

* OPD has allowed other billboards to stay, and lately, it seems all it takes for a variance is to ask for it.

* There is an easement, but no lease, but this fact is irrelevant (although OPD tells a story to make it seem that this is relevant).

* At the end of its report, OPD points out that the site is irregular in shape, but fails to explain how this would make it difficult to remove this sign.

The Unified Development Code says that this sign which violates our zoning laws in almost every way should be removed when the site is redeveloped.  Neither the applicants nor OPD provide any rationale for believing that taking the sign down creates a hardship or even a practical difficulty to the proposed redevelopment of this site.
We do not oppose the Truck Stop development.  In fact, we absolutely love it, but our new Unified Development Code says this sign should come down.  And yet, again, planners are recommending just the opposite.  More to the point, they do not prove  hardship or practical difficulty that is required by the regulations for any variance from the rules.
The Board of Adjustment should reject this variance allowing the billboard to remain on this site, because neither the applicant nor the OPD staff report give any acceptable justifications for allowing this large, nonconforming sign to stay.