There has been an absolute increase in the use of advertising signs that have become known as “visual litter.” As former chairman of the City of Aiken Planning Commission, I was involved with the writing of a very good and fair sign control ordinance; however, there has been a total “evolving” to usurp the intent of the ordinance.
FOR EXAMPLE, we did not address the positioning of sandwich boards, etc., displayed by people parading in front of businesses. Also, companies – especially banks – have begun printing advertising upon automobiles and trucks and trailers that are parked continuously close or around their businesses. Why should a tax preparation company have a storage trailer permanently parked in a shopping center’s front parking lot? It is nothing more than a continuous billboard.
Another thing to consider is all of the garage-sale and yard-sale signs that are put up, then stay up long after the dates of the sales.
I have surveyed two counties – Richmond and Aiken – and the signs are getting worse each day. In Aiken County there is an out-of-town home-builder who places signs up for several subdivisions. On one weekend, I counted 104 signs between Clearwater and Aiken placed on the right-of-way of the Aiken-Augusta Highway. I called and wrote letters to Aiken County and the South Carolina Department of Transportation, and only on one occasion did the state pick up the violating signs.
RECENTLY, I WAS traveling on Washington Road and noticed between the Augusta National Golf Club and the Columbia County line quite an increase in signs along the right-of-way that are prohibited.
The city of North Augusta has tightened its ordinance to address the increase in directional signs, specifically by real-estate companies. On some occasions there may have been up to 10 signs at one intersection. This is a good attempt to make North Augusta more attractive. The city of Aiken has a restriction regarding off-site real-estate signage that is increasingly being abused.
It seems like our county and city governments have attempted to address this growing problem with ordinances; however, enforcement is the key, and the best time to implement the enforcements is on weekends when signs are placed everywhere, as stated above.
I have been in the real-estate business for more than 35 years, and have never knowingly placed my signs on rights-of-way or private property of others. Most good real-estate brokers follow this pattern. However, some absolutely do not.
IT HAS BEEN proved that potential buyers are attracted by catalog/magazine-type display racks around towns, and the newspapers as primary sources searching for residential property. Commercial buyers deal more with direct inquiries, as most of the clients have specifics and criteria that cannot be met with just a sign.
I ask that the local governments, along with real-estate and business people, strive to rewrite their ordinances to prevent abuse and make them fair and equitable to all. I have traveled quite a lot in my lifetime and have been to towns and cities that had sign ordinances, and the places were absolutely beautiful, and everybody seemed to get along.
Again, I ask those in charge to take a good look to work out and prevent the loopholes that are occurring with our present ordinances. Please get involved.
(The writer lives in Aiken, S.C.)