York County zeroes in on realty signs

If you head out for a weekend drive around York County, you might notice more realty signs planted at intersections. Or you might not, depending on the disposition of the York County Council.

The council approved changes to the county’s sign ordinance Monday, but several members made clear they want to see the ordinance changed again before they give it final approval.

The ordinance regulates “temporary planned development signs,” also known as the signs real estate agents place along roadsides on the weekends to attract motorists into subdivisions to look at available houses.

Currently, county ordinance limits to four the number of promotional signs a development can place in any one location. But to grab motorists’ attention and pull in viewers, the amount of signage at any given intersection on any given weekend will exceed that.

Developers had asked the county to give them more leeway to put up the signs, but council members seemed unhappy with the resulting changes presented to them this week, which would increase to 25 from four the number of signs allowed in one place.

“Why stop there? Why not add another 50?” Councilman Bruce Henderson asked.

Councilman Michael Johnson wanted to see the sign ordinance strengthened to tackle the explosion of weekend signs in his booming Fort Mill district but didn’t like the proposal that would allow most of those signs to stay up.

“I said before we ought to enforce the sign ordinance or get rid of it,” Johnson said. “I should have said enforce it, get rid of it, or not make it worse, and this in my opinion makes it worse.”

Johnson said he understood that, for financial reasons, developers don’t want to pay someone to place only four signs along the roadway, and many companies feel the need to compete with other home-sellers who put up numerous signs on the weekends. But the purpose of the sign ordinance should be to restrain that impulse, he said.

The ordinance calls for signs to be placed in a “reasonable manner” so as not to “create visual clutter and safety concerns at roadway intersections.” But the language in the ordinance change could create clutter even beyond the 25-sign limit. If more than one builder is developing the same subdivision, the change would allow each company to place up to 15 signs outside the development.

The council approved an initial reading of the changes Monday, but asked staff to adopt more restrictive standards before the ordinance receives final approval.

Bristow Marchant •  803-329-4062