Beaufort News

Decision on street banners in Beaufort left hanging, some residents say

Cars cross the intersection of Bay Street and Ribaut Road in Beaufort on Monday. Some residents want the city to prohibit banners in this area.
Cars cross the intersection of Bay Street and Ribaut Road in Beaufort on Monday. Some residents want the city to prohibit banners in this area. Jonathan Dyer/The Beaufort Gazette

More than two years after Beaufort City Council members verbally agreed the city should relocate banners that often hang from utility poles at the intersection of Bay Street and Ribaut Road, a small group of residents are asking officials to follow through.

But Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling, other residents and some nonprofit organization leaders argue the banners -- which often advertise upcoming events and festivals -- add to Beaufort's small-town charm and provide residents with important information at a high-visibility location.

Keyserling is not comfortable reneging on a previous council's commitment, he said, and believes the city needs to address the issue soon. However, he hopes a compromise can be reached.

"That intersection is the single best location for reaching the people of Beaufort," Keyserling said. "My plan is to call a neighborhood meeting and see if there's a way to do something that cleans up the announcements and address the neighborhood's concerns with aesthetics."

The city has hung banners at the intersection for at least 18 years.

In 2008, the Beaufort County Open Land Trust, which owns the property, and some Bay Street residents asked the city to stop the practice.

The Open Land Trust, which has a different executive director and board makeup than in 2008, no longer has a position on the banners, executive director Ann Bluntzer said.

"We would like the neighborhood who opposes the banners and the city ... to come to a compromise," Bluntzer said. "We will support whatever that compromise is."

The council at the time, which included current members Donnie Beer, Gary Fordham and Mike Sutton, did not vote to remove the banners but appeared to reach a consensus that a small park at Ribaut Road and Boundary Street would be a better location for them.

The park is part of Beaufort's new municipal complex. Council members suggested at the time the banners move once construction concluded. Beaufort opened its new City Hall, the second of the complex's two buildings, in August but hasn't relocated the banners or installed any other kind of sign at the park.

"We gave the neighbors assurance that those banners would come down once City Hall was finished and we had a new place to put them," Councilwoman Beer said. "I think we should keep that promise."

Wayne Reynolds, a Bay Street resident who implored council to move the banners in 2008 and again at a meeting last month, agrees.

"I want the city to honor its commitment and the agreement that was made," Reynolds said.

The banners are aesthetically inappropriate for the residential area, violate the city's sign ordinance and go against the wishes of many in the neighborhood, Reynolds said.

"We plan, with proper permission and at the neighborhood's expense, to transform the vacant-lot appearance of the property into a beautifully landscaped, park-like setting that will serve as a more attractive and meaningful entrance to one of the most beautiful streets and towns anywhere," Reynolds wrote in a letter to the editor that appeared in The Beaufort Gazette this week.