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Highway 17: Study finds room for more digital signs

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Under existing county zoning, there is plenty of opportunity for more electronic billboards on the Waccamaw Neck.

Members of the Georgetown County Planning Commission have a discussion about the future of electronic billboards on Highway 17 on their agenda this afternoon.

County planning director Boyd Johnson concluded in the report that planners’ concerns about proliferation of the brightly lighted billboards was not misplaced. He will present a report today that says there are eight billboards along the Waccamaw Neck Commercial Corridor Overlay Zone with the potential to become electronic billboards with up to five sites that could qualify for new ones.

The report cautions that the analysis does not consider height and setback requirements and applications would need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Members of the commission began billboard talks last year and delayed them during the holidays. Some members have said they would favor changing zoning rules to restrict illuminated billboards based on reactions to one erected in Pawleys Island.

The county staff counted 35 billboards in the corridor along Highway 17. All but eight are non-conforming based on the fact they were not on an individual lot, not zoned appropriately or did not meet the 1,000-foot separation requirement from other billboards. Some, the report says, are nonconforming in more than one area. The county’s off-premise sign ordinance says billboards cannot be further illuminated unless the entire structure is brought into conformity. Electronic billboards do not fall under a newly approved corridor sign ordinance that eliminates new electronic reader boards.

Neither the billboard study nor the sign ordinance includes Business 17 through Murrells Inlet.

The staff will recommend continuing the billboard discussion in March.

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