Friday, February 10, 2012
The Statue of Liberty is not allowed on the sidewalks in the City of Georgetown — at least not if she is drawing attention to a business that is not holding a sale or some other special event.
For the past few weeks, people dressed in a Statue of Liberty costume have been walking next to the street near Five Points as a way to drum up business for Liberty Tax Service, a promotion the company uses at many of its locations.
While area cities such as Conway and Kingstree allow the “wavers,” as they are called by the company, the new Georgetown branch on Highmarket Street was told recently the wavers violate the sign ordinance.
According to one portion of the ordinance, no sign can be “shaped in the form of a statue of a human or animal figure or in the form of a three-dimensional model.”
Elizabeth Tucker, the city’s director of planning, said even though the costume is worn by a human, it is still classified as a sign because the purpose is to promote a business.
Ursula McCray, one of the owners of the business, said she was surprised when she received a visit from a city official telling her the waver is not allowed. She said she owns an identical business in Kingstree where the wavers are allowed without restrictions.
McCray said she had to lay off the wavers after the city informed her of the law.
“I just don’t understand it. We employee people. We pay taxes. We pay a light bill. I would think they would want us here,” McCray said. “And they told us the costume is a sign. I don’t see it as a sign. I see it as a uniform. Just like McDonald’s workers have uniforms.”
Jerry Graham, an employee of that office, expressed his concerns on a Facebook posting.
He said the city also says the waver “might distract motorist” who are driving by.
“I can't help wonder if the City of Georgetown will be fining businesses that allow kids washing cars to hold signs beside the road on the sidewalk,” Graham wondered.” I know these are charities but doesn't a business have the same rights as a charity?”
Tucker said non-profit groups that hold things such as car washes or other events and have sign holders next to the road are supposed to apply for a permit but that does not happen in most cases.
Tucker said the ‘waver’ can be used by Liberty, at least on a temporary basis, is it is used to promote a sale or special event within the business. In that case, the business can apply for a temporary permit that will allow the ‘waver.’
She used the recent opening of the new McDonald’s restaurant as an example pointing out that business received a temporary permit for the huge inflated Ronald McDonald that was on the top of the building for a couple of weeks. That was allowed because it was a grand opening, Tucker said.
McCray said since no special events are planned for her business, she does not expect to be applying for a temporary permit.
By Scott Harper