Blue directional signs could begin popping up in Beaufort by year's end as a plan to place them around the city advances.
Main Street Beaufort, USA, and the city of Beaufort's planning staff have teamed up on the project. The city has $15,000 allocated, and Main Street Beaufort is raising the rest of the $25,500 needed to place the signs, by selling advertising space on them.
Main Street Beaufort picked Gimme-A-Sign Co. Inc. of Greenville for the work. That work includes gateway signs for entrances to Beaufort, destination signs for places of note, an area map and downtown directory that will be placed near the intersection of West and Bay streets, and eight directional signs. The directional signs would point toward side streets and include space for nearby businesses to advertise.
Main Street Beaufort executive director LaNelle Fabian said downtown business owners should check with her to ensure the information about their establishments is listed correctly before the directory is printed.
Some questions remain about what the directional signs should advertise and if there are too many. The plans were discussed Tuesday by City Council.
Fabian said the S.C. Department of Transportation is balking at the idea of advertising for private businesses along a state-owned road, but city manager Scott Dadson pointed out that highways have directional signs at exits advertising businesses.
Councilman George O'Kelley Jr., who opposes advertisements for individual businesses on the signs, said there wouldn't be enough room for all businesses to advertise on them.
"I just think it's a bad idea for public ways to start advertising for a private business," he said.
Stephen Murray, who recently announced he will run for City Council in November's general election, recalled a debate last fall that led to a ban on sandwich board signs on Bay Street for businesses not on Bay. The directional signs were mentioned during that debate as a way for off-Bay businesses to advertise on the main street.
Nan Sutton, owner of Lulu Burgess gift and clothing shop and wife of Councilman Mike Sutton, said those side-street businesses stand to benefit most from the directional signs. She said they should be placed at Bay Street's intersections with West and Scott streets, and could be specific to individual businesses or more general such as "retail" or "restaurants."
"Those businesses need help, I believe, with their signage, and they're not given an opportunity," Nan Sutton said. "They come and go every six months, and we need to help them."
Fabian said she will work with Maxine Lutz, executive director of the Historic Beaufort Foundation, to ensure the signs are placed appropriately in the historic district. An initial plan to place the business directory on the historic clock at the West Street Extension has been rejected, and it will be placed nearby instead, Fabian said.
While Mayor Billy Keyserling shared concerns about the number of signs, he agreed there is a need to help guide downtown visitors.
"We do want to get people to realize downtown is more than three blocks," he said.
The signs will be made of heavy-duty aluminum and will be placed on existing light poles when possible. Their lettering and information can be easily removed and replaced, a representative from Gimme-A-Sign said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.