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Land use: Planners continue talks on limits for digital billboards

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Planning director Boyd Johnson told members of the Georgetown County Planning Commission last week that he wouldn’t be surprised to see more billboards on the Waccamaw Neck being converted to electronic billboards.

Commission members discussed potential limits on the brightness and pace of changing the messages, but billboards can not be regulated like signs. Planners have proposed new sign restrictions for the Waccamaw Neck Commercial Overlay District that ban electronic reader boards.

“We went to a lot of trouble for signs,” said commission chairman Brian Henry, “and a week later we had a lighted billboard. We’ve got all these resort shops. With the electronic billboard, that just doesn’t jibe. The community doesn’t know what it wants to be.”

While it doesn’t appear the county can ban electronic billboards outright, Johnson said there are more controls available than he first thought. “If you want an existing billboard removed,” Johnson said, “you have to buy it.” The county could require 1,000 feet between billboards, he said. “The higher you make that number, the harder it would be to find a location,” he said. “The main reason you haven’t see more billboards is that we require a separate lot.” He said the new electronic billboard on Highway 17 in Pawleys Island was built on a 10,000-square-foot commercial lot that was subdivided from a larger parcel.

Planning Commission Member Lee Shoulette suggested making the minimum lot size larger. “Make it so large,” he said, “it is onerous.”

If rules make it more difficult to erect electronic billboards, Johnson said existing billboards would likely be converted to maximize profit.

Planners agreed to continue their discussion next month along with talks begun about land use element and a proposed Flexible Design District.

Also next month, the commission will hold hearings on a request to change the zoning for one acre at Pawleys Station from “neighborhood commercial” to “general commercial.”

It will also review a plan by Beverly Homes to create 15 lots on Tyson Drive across from Silver Hill Lane.

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