Proposed rules for sidewalk sandwich boards in downtown Beaufort are designed to regulate the freestanding signs, not ban them, city officials say.
"Really, the goal is to allow something that we have anyway, but in a way that is appropriate," city preservation planner Lauren Kelly said.
The ordinance revisions have been discussed during committee meetings and were approved by the Metropolitan Planning Commission in September. Residents and business owners can comment during a public hearing at the meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall.
According to a city staff memo, sandwich boards were allowed in the historic district until 2003, when the Unified Development Ordinance was adopted. Those already placing two-sided, hinged boards on city sidewalks could continue to use them, and some are still in use today; new businesses are permitted to use them for six months.
"The problem is, since everyone has them, there was never a way to enforce them except to say, 'Remove them all,'" Kelly said.
The ordinance revisions would allow businesses to display one sandwich or easel sign each, with specials, the menu, business name or business logo. No vendor or third-party advertising would be allowed, according to the proposal.
Signs must be made out of the same materials as other signs in the historic district and should complement the building. Additional material cannot be placed on the sign, even temporarily.
Easel signs can be no more than 6 feet tall, with the sign portion 3.5 square feet. Sandwich boards can be no more than 3.5 feet tall, and the sign can be no more than five square feet.
Signs are to be next to the building, cannot obstruct the sidewalk and must leave four feet of space for pedestrians.
All businesses will need to apply for permits to use sandwich signs, and some exemptions might be possible, Kelly said.
Rainey Stoute, co-owner of Palm and Moon Bagel Co. on Scott Street, said their sign on Bay Street has been invaluable for attracting visitors and newcomers to Beaufort. Its location, and possibly its materials, would violate the proposed code.
"If we can't have the boards out there, we need something," she said.
Main Street Beaufort, USA, and the city's planning department are working on signs that could help people find businesses off Bay Street, said Main Street Beaufort executive director LaNelle Fabian. They will point people to areas with the words "More to explore," she said.
Those signs could go up as soon as January if City Council approves them, she said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.