Originally created 03/08/06

Large signs get green light



AIKEN - At least six businesses have sidestepped a sign moratorium in Aiken County since the restriction was adopted two years ago to curb unsightly landscape clutter.

And they've done so with the county council's blessing.

In fact, no business that applied to install a sign larger than the 32-square-foot limit, which the council imposed in February 2004, has ever been told no, according to Assistant County Administrator Joan Donnelly.

The unfinished Palmetto Tire & Brake Center on Jefferson Davis Highway, across from Aiken Technical College, is the latest business to get the green light for a sign larger than the council previously planned.

It got approval even though the planned sign "does not conform to the requirements" of new zoning regulations currently under review by the county planning commission, a memo states.

In approving the request, county council members cited other signs they had allowed in the relative vicinity, saying they felt obligated to give to one what they had given the other.

"It's hard to turn one person down when someone just down the road received a waiver," Councilwoman Kathy Rawls said in an interview Tuesday.

The council moved to block large signs because of complaints from county residents against the number of billboards being erected along Interstate 20.

However, none of the signs that slipped through the moratorium were billboards and none of them were put up on I-20, officials said. Most of the signs were erected on Jefferson Davis Highway in front of businesses.

The county's 32-square-foot limit is temporary until a new land management ordinance is passed.

The planning commission has about 10 pages of the 247-page draft left to review, according to Phil England, the director of the county's Planning and Development Department.

They have been holding monthly meetings to work on the document for more than a year. Ten pages of the draft are dedicated to addressing the matter of signs.

"I think it's just something you just got to look at," Councilman Charles Barton said.

"The main thing we were concerned about was the billboards, and somehow we got in the way of the rest."

Reach J.C. Lexow at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106 or jc.lexow@augustachronicle.com.