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Land use: Planners review limits on digital billboards

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

A proliferation of digital billboards along the Waccamaw Neck Commercial Corridor seems unlikely, according to an outdoor media professional.

Members of the Georgetown County Planning Commission have a discussion of digital billboards on their agenda today, and some said they were worried about existing billboards going digital in the future.

Brian Harvin of Peak Outdoor Media in Isle of Palms said existing billboards would have to meet all the requirements of a new location before going digital. He said his company erected the new digital billboard on Highway 17 near the Island Shops, expecting a monopoly. “One of the reasons we felt comfortable putting a digital in this area was the digital conversions would be non-existent on non-conforming signs and the scarcity of new local locations,” Harvin wrote to Joanne Ochal, Georgetown County zoning administrator. “We believe the concerns of the commissioners should be relieved by confirmation of the current ordinance that is in place. We believe that if this ordinance wasn’t already currently in place that other digitals would have already been in place in the community.”

Planning Commission members have discussed the brightness of the digital billboard being a distraction to drivers at night and the length of time between rotating messages. Tom Stickler, president of the Waccamaw Neck Council of Property Owners Associations, brought the concerns to the board last month. County planner Boyd Johnson said billboards are regulated by the state Department of Transportation.

Horry County planners view digital billboards as an “attractive alternative to the peeling, faded mess we sometimes see,” according to a letter county planner Holly Richardson will share with the Georgetown County commission members today.

Horry has a regulation against animation, the letter says. The biggest issue there is glare, pointing out a billboard on Highway 17 near 544 as “blinding at night.” The length of time a message is displayed is not a concern to Horry County planners. “An advertiser wouldn’t consider 4-second intervals,” the letter said. “It simply isn’t worth the money. I think 8 seconds is the minimum with no more than 6 adverts per billboard. I think you’ll find that they all try to keep an advert static for as long as possible while trying to communicate as many messages as possible. Probably a balancing act they’ve figured out.”

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