Hardeeville City Council has tentatively agreed to allow billboards to become more difficult to ignore.
A proposal approved on the first of two votes would raise the signs’ height limit from 60 to 100 feet and allow them to be expanded from 450 to 672 square feet.
The plan would only apply to billboards along the city’s portions of Interstate 95 and S.C. 17.
Hardeeville city manager Bob Nanni said larger signs could provide an economic boost for local businesses.
“You could have a business in the community that wants to advertise, and this could create an economic advantage for us,” he said. “This is strictly a benefit to businesses along the highway.”
The proposal was devised by the city’s planning commission, which began a discussion recently about billboards in part because pine trees now block some 60-foot-tall signs. The 100-foot cap was chosen, according to city officials, because the pine canopy generally doesn’t extend higher than 80 feet.
In many cases, the trees are within the I-95 right-of-way, meaning billboard owners can’t cut them down. Town officials say the highways’ rights-of-way are regulated by state authorities.
In addition to allowing larger, taller signs, the proposal gives city officials a new mechanism to remove older, non-conforming billboards, some of which are in poor condition. Nanni said the city wouldn’t issue permits for a taller sign unless the billboard owner’s non-conforming sign was removed.
A survey of billboards along I-95 and S.C. 17 inside city limits is being conducted to determine how many no longer conform to city rules, according to Brana Rogerson of the Hardeeville’s Planning and Development Services Department.
Susan Thomas, vice president of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said she likes the proposal.
“Particularly along those types of roadways, allowing for a higher board just makes good sense from a business and a marketing standpoint,” she said Friday.
The visitor’s bureau rents several billboards on I-95 that promote Bluffton and golf on Hilton Head. None are within Hardeeville limits, according to bureau officials.
Hal Kilshaw, vice president of governmental relations for Lamar Advertising, one of the nation’s largest billboard companies, said that larger billboards are generally more valuable for advertisers than smaller ones. He did not comment specifically on the Hardeeville plan.
Nanni said a final vote on the billboard proposal could come Thursday.