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Billboard: After ban on digital, county looks at curbs on sign size

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

There will be no more digital billboards along Highway 17 on Waccamaw Neck. Georgetown County Council passed final reading of an ordinance banning them on Tuesday. Now, Council Member Steve Goggans wants restrictions on the size of any other billboards proposed for the area.

County planning director Boyd Johnson said he feared a run on digital billboards when a ban was first proposed by the Planning Commission. Council members agreed to suspend permits until an ordinance could be adopted.

Johnson proved prophetic. Representatives of Lamar Advertising filed permit requests for five new billboards in the Highway 17 corridor but asked to withdraw them once the ordinance appeared on a fast track.

Johnson pointed out eight billboards along the overlay zone with the potential to be converted to electronic billboards with up to five sites that could qualify for new ones. The county staff counted 35 billboards in the corridor along Highway 17.

The county already controls the appearance of commercial buildings and signs through an “overlay zone” along Highway 17. Goggans proposed limiting the size and height of any new billboards in the overlay zone to conform to new sign regulations.

“The scale is quite large,” Goggans said. “They loom over our landscape.”

He proposed limiting any new billboard to 200 square feet — they are currently allowed to be as large as 440 square feet — and 15 feet in height to conform with the sign rules for businesses.

“With me,” Goggans said after the meeting, “it’s a matter of fairness. If a business is relegated to 15 feet in height and 200 square feet of area for its signage — and these are people who own businesses, live and invest in our community — then why does an outdoor sign company or off-premise sign have the unfair advantage of having a 400-foot sign that’s 35 feet tall? This brings some conformity and fairness to the equation and will have the added benefit of beautification of our community.”

The amendments to the billboard ordinance were sent for members of the Planning Commission to consider at their June meeting.

Bill Renault, a resident of the Tradition Club, thanked council members for their quick resolution to the electronic billboard proposal during the public comment period.

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