Hilton Head Island officials believe they've set rules that prevent "visual clutter" while still allowing business owners to attract customers.
Revisions to sign regulations, designed to make it easier for businesses to advertise special promotions and events, were approved June 5 by Town Council.
"These changes will make the sign code more flexible and helpful to business owners, while still maintaining the character of Hilton Head Island," senior planner Anne Cyran said.
Standards regulating the number, location, size, materials, lighting, landscaping and design of "permanent, highly visible commercial signs" have not changed, Cyran noted.
"It's not a large-scale overhaul," she said.
The most notable changes: Allow commercial festivals to apply for a temporary, promotional sign on their property if a crowd of 500 or more is expected. Previously, only nonprofit organizations could do so. Organizations are limited to one sign per entrance. The signs may not be illuminated and can be displayed only one day before and after the event. Temporary signs advertising a sales event, such as a grand opening or a seasonal sale, are not permitted. Businesses and organizations expected to draw more than 5,000 people can now place signs off premises directing traffic to the event or identifying race routes. Signs directing traffic 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 -- are now allowed. Previously prohibited, but now permitted, are free-standing sandwich boards and chalkboards displaying business specials, discounts and other messages. Business are limited to one such sign, which may only be displayed during business hours and placed within 10 feet of an entrance. Plastic or dry-erase boards are not allowed. Animated signs, video boards and those worn or held by a person are still banned, as are balloons and inflated or wind-blown signs. Business can now also use holiday decorations year-round, not just between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Jim Loniero, managing partner of Giuseppi's Pizza & Pasta at Shelter Cove, said sandwich boards and chalkboards offer a convenience to customers and help businesses attract passersby.
"It saves them time from going into the restaurant and asking what the specials are," Loniero said. "They can make their decision right there and then. And they may see something -- a special -- that could draw them into the restaurant. There is the possibility it could help direct more foot traffic into the restaurant, and we plan on taking advantage of that."
Loniero believes the town should continue to ban signs advertising sales and grand openings and says larger signs and banners detract from the island's charm.
"I don't think that's (in) good taste and could get out of hand," he said.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.
Changes to Town of Hilton Head Island sign regulations
Sign of the times: Hilton Head tries to give business owners a break on ordinance: Feb. 3, 2012