Beaufort County crews removing hundreds of campaign signs

cconley@islandpacket.comMarch 15, 2013 

Beaufort County code enforcement officer Marion Smalls removes campaign signs that had been planted along U.S. 278 in Bluffton on Friday. "I'm just doing my job," he said. Beaufort County workers are scooping up hundreds of the political signs because they violate a county ordinance, according to county manager Gary Kubic.

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With three days left until Tuesday's primaries for the 1st Congressional District, Beaufort County has dealt some candidates an unexpected blow.

Codes-enforcement crews carted off more than 550 campaign signs earlier this week, and hundreds more were removed Friday along S.C. 170 and U.S. 278 and other roadsides for violating ordinances, county administrator Gary Kubic said.

"Unfortunately, the campaigning parties are not acting responsibly, so instead of my trained code-enforcement team working on people problems, they are spending their days pulling political signs," Kubic said in an email.

The sign ordinance has numerous requirements, but in this case, most offenders have installed them too close to a road or intersection. Some have even been placed in medians and within roundabouts -- areas considered part of the road.

Signs can be no closer than 10 feet from the road right of way or within 100 feet of an intersection, according to the ordinance.

Most of the candidates didn't get a sign permit, another violation, according to county codes-enforcement director Audra Antonacci.

As of 2 p.m. Friday, only five candidates -- Mark Sanford, Andy Patrick, John Kuhn, Ben Frasier and Elizabeth Moffly -- had obtained the proper permit.

Signs belonging to candidates without permits are being pulled even if they are in legal areas, Antonacci added.

"They are being pulled because they are illegal and do not have permits," she said Friday.

Although the county has been removing political signs for some time, it's three code-enforcement officers are struggling to keep up.

"Honestly, starting this week, it seems like it has gotten worse," Antonacci said. "As fast as we are pulling them, they are putting them back up. It's just out of control."

Sixteen Republicans and two Democrats are seeking their parties' nominations to represent the 1st District, which includes much of Beaufort County. The large number of candidates has translated into thousands of campaign signs, from plastic yard signs to homemade plywood ones.

"I certainly understand (sign removal) if they're too close to the roadways," said Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head. "It is what it is, and we'll put them back out tonight and try to keep them away from the road and be compliant with the rules."

All signs picked up by the county will be stored until a candidate retrieves them.

Staff writer Gina Smith contributed to this report.

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