Committee to recommend allowing digital signs in Myrtle Beach, but no animation

mprabhu@thesunnews.comFebruary 6, 2013 

— Signs with digital changeable copy should be kept out of residential neighborhoods, not contain any graphics or animation and be limited to text that changes once every four hours in approved districts, according to a Myrtle Beach Planning Commission subcommittee.

The subcommittee presented its recommendations to the Planning Commission on Tuesday after discussing issues with changeable electronic variable messaging systems, or CEVMs, such as safety to drivers, enabling owners to change the message without going outside and protection of residential areas.

“We looked at all aspects of the technology available and what their impact might be on our community,” said Jim Hubbard, a local architect who served as the subcommittee chairman.

The subcommittee looked at ways to upgrade the current manual changeable signs in a way that works best for the city, Hubbard said.

“They decided that there should be an option for those with changeable copy to be changed out to be digital,” said Allison Hardin, a planner with the city and the staff member assigned to the subcommittee. “They also think [users] should be able to change the copy from your store versus changing by hand.”

Hardin said while the subcommittee thought the city should allow the digital copy, the members didn’t think it should be all animated all the time so they suggested a new digital sign definition called “readerboard” that would allow only alphanumeric characters and no graphics or animation.

“The main thing – from my own personal perspective as an architect in town – the majority concern was not to cause visual clutter with all these signs changing at the same time while recognizing that there are more technological advancements that have been made to [help businesses],” Hubbard said.

Additionally, the subcommittee suggested that readerboards not be restricted to any particular color scheme but not be allowed at establishments such as schools or churches that are in residential neighborhoods.

The City Council was scheduled to approve an ordinance last August that would permit the signs within certain districts inside city limits, including in the downtown entertainment district and in commercial areas. The Planning Commission previously recommended that any electronic changeable signs should not have running animation and would not change text more than once every 60 minutes.

In August, Mayor John Rhodes said he hoped to move forward and decide one way or another on digital signs.

“I’d like to see us make a decision,” Rhodes said. “If we do vote to allow signs, we can allow the people who want them to have them in place for next season,” he said in August.

The subcommittee will present its suggestions at the Planning Commission meeting at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 19, at which time it will vote to send the recommendations back to the City Council.

A crowd is expected, so the location has yet to be determined, Hardin said.

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.

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