Residents and business owners told Beaufort City Council on Tuesday they don't mind having rules governing sidewalk sandwich boards downtown, but applications, fees and some of the proposed rules are unnecessary burdens.
"Most of us in the business community want to play by the rules and understand the need for commonsense codes to protect the overall aesthetic well-being," said Beaufort Regional Chamber of Business president Stephen Murray.
City Council held a public hearing on proposed rules for the sandwich board and easel signs increasingly popping up in the downtown historic district, despite being against city rules, according to planning director Libby Anderson.
In the historic district, signs are only allowed if they were in place before being banned in 2003 and for the first six months of a new business.
The proposed changes would "remedy" problems by imposing rules for size, location, material and other aspects of the signs, she said.
Businesses would need to apply to place signs and pay a fee based on how much a sign costs.
City Council would need to vote twice before rules were adopted, and no votes have been set. Mayor Billy Keyserling said concerns could be discussed in a work session before voting.
Murray suggested merchants be given the chance to comply with new rules voluntarily, without applications and fees, and have the city fine uncooperative merchants.
Lulu Burgess owner Nan Sutton walked Bay Street on Tuesday before the meeting, snapping photos of all the signs she could find. She took council on a figurative walk through downtown during the hearing, showing pictures of all the signs.
"I think they have become much more important now with the economic times," she said.
Among Sutton's issues was that the proposed rules would ban third-party logos and names, which she said are important for drawing customers in. She did agree there is a wide range of styles, and suggested that merchants be allowed to pick from a handful of pre-approved styles.
Some signs downtown are plastic, which likely would not be allowed under the rules. But, as Barbara Stanley told councilmembers, those signs are light enough that the elderly docents who give tours at St. Peter's Historic Chapel can carry them. Even the lightest metal ones considered for the chapel would be too heavy, she said, let alone solid wood.
Charles Aimar asked for clarification of definitions for the signs â€" and that the one- and two-pronged signs he places outside Rossignol's not be included.
He said City Council and advisory boards should make rules that support and assist local businesses, because the more successful ones there are, the more everyone benefits.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.