By David Meade
Williamston Police Chief Tony Taylor said this week that the town will begin enforcing the town and state sign ordinance.
According to Taylor, the ordinance prohibits temporary yard sale, business and political signs from being placed along roadways and in rights-of-way. During the council meeting Monday, Taylor said it is a safety issue. Temporary signs are not allowed along roadways by state statute and town ordinance, he said.
“There is a law on the books,” he said. “The ordinance review committee has looked at it from the public perspective and from the legal perspective. It is enforceable.”
Councilman Rockey Burgess said enforcement has been a problem in the past because there were administrative problems on the front end in getting information and collecting fees from persons who apply for a sign permit within the town.
That is being corrected.
Town officials have been reviewing the sign ordinance for months and according to Burgess, who is overseeing the review, plans are to coordinate the ordinance with a Master Plan when it is completed, to provide a clear, comprehensive and enforceable ordinance for the town.
Burgess said that the Master Plan will incorporate guidelines and coordinate with planning and development and zoning placement.
“Some signs that are appropriate in an area are not appropriate in other areas,” he said.
As a first step, Burgess said the town will begin removing the “push in” political, yard sale and business signs that are in violation of the town ordinance.
The public will also be educated as to what is or is not allowed, he said.
Police Chief Taylor received the ok from council members Monday to begin enforcing the sign ordinance.
Taylor said town employees and police officers will begin collecting signs they see which are in violation of the ordinance.
The signs will be placed at the town shed and violators can pick them up there, he said.
Anderson County and SCDOT officials have acted in a similar fashion in the past, periodically collecting political and other signs from along rights-of-way throughout the county.
During a safety presentation to Council Monday, Taylor said that signs at intersections and along rights-of-way present a safety problem.
Enforcement of the sign ordinance has also become a political issue.
Burgess, who is up for re-election in November, has been involved in scrutinizing the sign ordinance. His opponent in the Ward 2 council race, Joan Ragsdale has already been told her political signs will not be allowed along rights-of-way and intersections, even though the practice has been commonly ignored during previous election cycles.
Burgess denied that enforcement of the sign ordinance is in any way related to the Ward 2 council race.
He said he has been pushing the mayor to clean up and straighten up signs and other eyesores throughout town as a beginning for other improvements being planned through the new Main Street Williamston Program.
There is also the issue of some businesses which rely on temporary signage to direct customers to their stores.
Ragsdale’s business, the Pink House is open on weekends and reliess on temporary signs as described in the ordinance to promote her business.
Other businesses, including Phoenix of Anderson (All About Fabrics) and others also have temporary signs to direct customers to their businesses.
Burgess said he has talked with the owners of All About Fabrics and others about the sign ordinance.
Businesses may be allowed to purchase placard signage that will hang along with the Way Finding signs the town plans to implement as part of the Main Street Williamston program, he said.