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Land use: Planners give shape to new sign rules

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Brian Henry, chairman of the Georgetown County Planning Commission, said he wants “digestible, manageable change” regarding a sign ordinance covering the Waccamaw Neck Overlay Zone along Highway 17.

Commission members sent their recommendations back to the county planning staff to be put into proper language before considering a proposal to send to Georgetown County Council next month.

Holly Richardson, the county’s senior planner, said some signs will be non-conforming under an ordinance. They will be allowed to remain until they are torn down or destroyed. A change of tenants will not require signs to be in compliance, she said.

Last week’s discussion of signs on the Waccamaw Neck was intended to add “texture and detail” to the proposal, according to Henry.

Restrictions being considered include height limits of 25 feet for units with four or more tenants and 15 feet for single businesses. External illumination will be preferred, but internal illumination will be confined to the letters rather than an entire panel from a steady, stationary source of light. Sign panel materials will be opaque. Signs in the shape of gorillas or sharks would be prohibited by a requirement that all signs be a standard geometric shape even if they have an arch or scalloped edge. Add-ons to existing signs, which a known as “parasite signs” in the industry, would also be prohibited.

Electronic reader boards will not be allowed without exception, the commission decided. “I feel strongly about it,” Henry said. “Give us a very compelling reason for a reader board in a ‘planned development’ and we are always willing to listen.”

The commission hesitated to include Business 17 in Murrells Inlet as part of the overlay zone. “The area there is of a different character than U.S. 17,” Henry said. “I don’t want to overreach on this. Business 17 in a destination with its restaurants and bars, a tourist draw.”

The commission also continued its discussion of roof pitch requirements in the overlay zone. Buildings undergoing renovations costing more than 50 percent of their value are required to meet the roof guidelines now. Henry said he was hesitant to lower the threshold and put a financial burden on business owners.

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