Sign of the times: Hilton Head tries to give business owners a break on ordinance

tbarton@islandpacket.comFebruary 3, 2012 

  • Hilton Head Island town staff will hold two more informational meetings about proposed revisions to the sign ordinance from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday and Thursday in Town Council Chambers, 1 Town Center Court. The revisions will be presented to a subcommittee of the town Planning Commission in late February or early March before going to the full commission and then to Town Council for final approval.

    Details: Go to; call Anne Cyran at 843-341-4697; or email

  • Get breaking news, story updates and alerts about fun things to do on Hilton Head Island by following Eye on Hilton Head on Twitter.

Hoping to strike a balance between "visual clutter" and helping owners direct traffic to their businesses, Hilton Head Island town staff has proposed revisions to the sign ordinance.

Senior planner Anne Cyran said the town hopes to make it easier for businesses to advertise openings, special promotions and events.

"We want to be a little more flexible and provide reasonable accommodations to businesses for signs previously prohibited," Cyran said. "We want to help them with advertising and promotions, but at the same time maintain the town's design standards and limit their size, number and placement so as not to cause a distraction."

Staff presented changes Friday during the first of three public meetings on the proposed revisions.

The changes allow businesses to apply to put a temporary sign on their property advertising a special event or promotion. Currently, only nonprofit organizations can do so.

Businesses would be limited to two signs per event. The signs must be made of Duroply or material equally durable. The signs may not be illuminated and can be displayed only one day before and after the event.

Businesses and organizations expected to draw more than 5,000 people would be allowed to place off-premises signs directing traffic to the event or identifying race routes. Those signs must meet S.C. Department of Transportation standards, as those used by the RBC Heritage already do.

Signs advertising goods or services within an event -- restaurant banners, price lists or lists of sponsors -- also would be allowed. Such signs currently are prohibited.

Also prohibited, but permissible under the revisions, are free-standing sandwich boards and chalkboards displaying business specials, discounts and other messages.

Business would be limited to one such sign, which could only be displayed during business hours and placed within 10 feet of an entrance. Plastic or dry-erase boards would not be allowed. Animated signs and those worn or held by a person would still be banned as would balloons and inflated or wind-blown signs.

Some island businesses use the chalkboard signs. Though technically not allowed, enforcement has been lax, according to town manager Steve Riley.

"We usually try to avoid fines and citations and try to work with the business to come into compliance," Riley said. "It's been a while (since) we've written a ticket for a violation of the sign ordinance."

All signs would still be required to meet the town's design standards.

"Business owners will be happy with this," said Sean Custer, owner of Southern Sign & Awning in Bluffton. "This allows more flexibility for businesses and events to promote themselves and make their presence better-known to residents and visitors."

Ron Winarchick, president of Hilton Head Signs, agreed.

"This is making it much easier and friendlier to deal with the town," he said. " ... We may not always get our way, but now we understand the regulations, and it's consistent."

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