County planners strengthen sign rules along the Neck

  • Wednesday, June 25, 2014

  • Updated Thursday, June 26, 2014 10:55 am

After months of research and discussion, the Georgetown County Planning Commission approved updated sign rules for the Waccamaw Neck Commercial Corridor Overlay Zone on June 19.

The new rules, which apply only to freestanding signs, now go to County Council for final approval.

Commission chairman Brian Henry feels the rules don’t “overreach” and make “common sense.”

“It feels right it,” Henry said. “It feels like it’s long overdue.”

The new rules include: all signs must be “monument-style” which rest on the ground or on a base, no signs on metal poles; the maximum height for signs is 25 feet for shopping centers with four or more tenants, and 15 feet for smaller centers; prohibited signs include electronic readerboards, marquees, mechanical movement and programmable display; and internally illuminated signs must be matte finish and utilize a steady, stationary light source and contain opaque backgrounds so that only letters, numbers and logos are illuminated.

Existing signs will be grandfathered in, but must conform to the new rules if damaged more than 50 percent and therefore have to be replaced.

Henry said he’s heard from many Waccamaw Neck residents who have said “enough is enough” when it comes to signage, but also from people who have said it’s too late to do anything. He doesn’t believe it’s too late.

“You can put a stake in the ground and say this is where we want to go,” he said.

Henry, who was just re-elected chairman of the commission, said he would have been disappointed if the sign rules were not strengthened on his watch.

“This sign ordinance is one of those things that has been a real priority for me.”

As part of ordinance changes, businesses along Business 17 in Murrells Inlet were exempted from most of the regulations.

Other business

The Planning Commission clarified the rule requiring a 50 percent pitched roof in the Waccamaw Neck Commercial Corridor Overlay Zone.

The pitched roof requirement became an issue in September when the Georgetown County Architectural Review Board granted a variance to Sunbelt Ventures, the company redeveloping Pawleys Plaza.

Sunbelt representatives argued that if taken as a whole, the roof pitch in the plaza equaled 56.2 percent.

The Review Board granted the variance, and a week later was disbanded by County Council.

If approved by County Council, the updated ordinance will read: the “provision shall apply on a building by building basis and not cumulatively for the overall project roof area.”

The Planning Commission also voted on several rezoning requests:

Planners approved a request to rezone part of a five-acre tract on the north side of Pond Road in Murrells Inlet from “forest and agriculture” to “10,000 square feet residential.”

The area is designated as low density residential on the county’s Future Land Use Map, so the commission also approved amending it to medium density.

Planners approved a request to rezone one parcel on the west side of U.S. Highway 17 near Archer Lane in Pawleys Island from “general residential” to “neighborhood commercial.”

The property is designated as commercial on the Future Land Use Map and county staff recommended approval of the request.

Planners did not approve a request to rezone 1.5 acres on the corner of Harbor Reef Drive and Highway 17 in Pawleys Island from “general residential” to “general commercial.”

Georgetown County Planning Director Boyd Johnson said staff recommended denial because the Future Land Use Map designated the area as residential; everything across the street from the parcel is residential; and the South Carolina Department of Transportation would want the developer to connect to property with Harbor Reef Drive, which is a private road.

County Council will now have the final say on all the rezonings.

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