City officials discuss downtown parking, sandwich boards

emoody@beaufortgazette.comOctober 15, 2013 

Beaufort City Hall

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  • In other business, council:

    • Received an update from Beaufort County director of engineering Rob McFee on the Boundary Street project, which could begin construction this winter.
    • Met in closed-door session to discuss land acquisition and receive legal advice. No more specific information was provided, but city manager Scott Dadson said more information should be released in the next few weeks about the projects discussed.

Two issues dominated the Beaufort City Council meeting Tuesday, both focused on the downtown.

The first involved tempting people to park a car there.

The second was how to lure them into businesses.

The free vs. paid parking debate was renewed when Main Street Beaufort, USA, executive director LaNelle Fabian said the organization wants to create one-hour, free parking tokens.

The conversation was part of Main Street's annual update to council, which touched on other projects including free Wi-Fi in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, marketing and promotion efforts, finances and upcoming projects.

Main Street wants to print 10,000 tokens that will work in the new meters the city is installing downtown. Businesses could buy them for 50 cents and give them to customers as an incentive to shop again.

Without any "speed bumps" along the way, Fabian said it's possible to have tokens printed and distributed before the end of the year.

Council members gave her the go-ahead to continue working on the project.

SANDWICH BOARDS

The second issue involved rules for sidewalk sandwich boards on Bay Street that advertise local merchants.

In response to concerns business owners brought up during a public hearing last week, council and staff members discussed changes to the proposed rules. Except for a handful of exemptions, sandwich board and easel signs are currently not allowed in the historic district, but that hasn't stopped some of them from cropping up. Among the changes discussed are increasing the size of signs from five-square-feet to six-square-feet, allowing multiple signs for businesses with multiple entrances, waiving sign fees and applications, allowing third-party vendors on signs and allowing signs that aren't directly in front of the business.

The last point relates to off-Bay businesses that use signs on Bay to draw customers. Fabian has said she and the city are working on directional signs, which could include directory-type signs for businesses on side roads.

The materials the signs can be made of was debated. Several council and audience members were OK with the use of plastic signs.

Others weren't sold on the idea.

"It has nothing to do with historic," Historic Beaufort Foundation executive director Maxine Lutz said. "It has to do with cheap, and we don't want to cheapen our streetscape with plastic."

City Council would need to vote twice before rules were adopted. No votes have been scheduled.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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