Politics & Government

A digital billboard may go up near this Beaufort Co. bridge. Here’s what we know

Adams Outdoor Advertising has proposed a digital billboard at the base of the Broad River Bridge off of S.C. 170 in Port Royal. Town officials will consider the proposal this month.
Adams Outdoor Advertising has proposed a digital billboard at the base of the Broad River Bridge off of S.C. 170 in Port Royal. Town officials will consider the proposal this month. sfastenau@beaufortgazette.com

A proposed electronic billboard that would rise at a busy entryway to northern Beaufort County has raised concerns about aesthetics and safety.

Adams Outdoor Advertising wants to build a 24-foot by 14-foot digital billboard off S.C. 170 at the base of the Broad River Bridge. The sign would be to the left as drivers head south leaving Robert Smalls Parkway and on the right side as drivers cross into northern Beaufort County.

The property is in the town of Port Royal, and the town council will consider a request to change a development agreement to allow the sign during its meeting Feb. 13.

A northern Beaufort County planning committee previously recommended denying the request.

“Personally I have a lot of questions about that, as do a lot of other people, from a safety point of view and an image point of view for both Beaufort and Port Royal and all of northern Beaufort County,” said Judy Alling, a Port Royal resident and Metropolitan Planning Commission member. “It doesn’t create the image that we’re looking for.”

A representative for Adams’ local office said the company has no comment on the plans.

A billboard had previously been erected on the property from at least as early as 1975 through 2015 when it was removed to prepare for a development that never materialized, according to town documents. The new billboard would be a similar size and location to the earlier sign, according to a draft of the proposed changes, but can’t be erected under current rules for the property.

According to the updated development guidelines Town Council will consider next week, the billboard:

  • Will be up to 288 square feet and not taller than 25 feet
  • Will display each advertisement at least eight seconds and automatically dim at night
  • Won’t include flashing light, bursts of bright light, moving video or scrolling messages

Representatives for Adams have met with council members individually and residents during a regular community coffee gathering to pitch the idea of a sign.

“For the people I’ve talked to, it’s not been received very well,” Councilman Jerry Ashmore said.

Representatives from Adams’ local office have said the company plans a new regional office on the property in addition to the billboard, said Port Royal resident Joe Lee, a former town councilman.

The project should be a welcome investment to boost the commercial tax base for the town, Lee said.

“We need to look at business every time we can,” Lee said. “... I’ve seen other plans for that corner, and none of them are very attractive.”

New billboards have been barred in Port Royal since 2000, town manager Van Willis said. Billboards erected before then are grandfathered in.

New billboards of any kind aren’t currently allowed in Beaufort County under a longstanding rule primarily aimed at preserving a Lowcountry aesthetic, said Rob Merchant, the county’s assistant community planner. The county also doesn’t allow internally illuminated signs except for certain exceptions like gas station prices, he said.

A digital billboard greets drivers in both directions on S.C. 170 in Okatie but is in Jasper County.

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