Sandwich-board signs are popping up throughout downtown Beaufort's business district, and city officials are discussing whether to regulate them.
City preservation planner Lauren Kelly said during last week's Historic District Review Board meeting that the signs are not addressed by city ordinances and that many are made of plastic signs and inappropriate for the area.
The board and those attending the meeting discussed size, style, content and location of the boards, as well as whether businesses should be required to apply for permission to use them.
Historic Beaufort Foundation executive director Maxine Lutz questioned allowing businesses to advertise in front of other storefronts. Board chairman Joel Newman countered that no business owns the sidewalk.
Local preservationist Beekman Webb said businesses tucked behind other shops on Bay Street have to place their signs in front of other stores to be seen. He cited Kooky Mooky's small ice cream shop that is tucked near a parking lot between Bay Street and the playground at Henry C. Chambers Watefront Park.
"(Y)ou wouldn't know they were down there because no one goes down there," Webb said.
"I think this is the only way these businesses can survive," board member Erica Dickerson added. "I mean, the last thing we need is for another business to go under because no one knows it's back there."
Kelly responded that businesses off of Bay Street pay lower rents, knowing they won't get the same exposure as stores visible from the street.
A sandwich board at West Street's intersection with Bay Street has been invaluable for Rob Fyfe of Palmetto Running Co. Without it, potential shoppers wouldn't know where to find his store, he said.
"At least people know there's things down there," he said. "... If people don't see the sign, they might not turn their head and look down the street."
He requested permission from the city to put up the sign and said he'd comply with any design rules that would allow it to stay.
The review board also discussed requiring applications for sandwich boards and creating a list of regulations.
Any changes to city ordinances would have to be approved by City Council.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.