MYRTLE BEACH — About 12 businesses have opted to replace their manually changeable signs with digital ones in the more than six months since the Myrtle Beach City Council approved an ordinance allowing the change in certain zones.
The ordinance passed after about five years of discussion between city staff, council members, the Myrtle Beach Planning Commission and City Council.
Many of the businesses that have opted to change their manual signs to digital ones are gas stations who use them to update gas prices, said Audie Smith, a city code enforcement officer.
“Most of the businesses like the signs, but when they see the prices of conversion [from manual to digital signs] and how much maintenance and energy consumption is, they seem to back off,” he said.
Other businesses that now have digital signs include Regency Towers condominiums, Palmetto Shores Resort and Beach Family and Urgent Care.
The ordinance, which passed in March, gives businesses in zones that allow signs with manual changeable copy the option to acquire digital signs that feature multicolored images and text, and can change as frequently or infrequently as the business owners choose.
Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means was the only council member to vote against the ordinance and said she was concerned that not having stipulations determining when signs could change screens could lead to distractions for drivers.
Regency Towers general manager Brian Barker said he thinks the oceanfront condominiums were among the first businesses to make the change. The company had a manual sign installed in early 2010 with an easy capability of upgrading if the City Council ever voted to allow the digital signs.
“When we found out it was going in front of the [council] again, we signed a contract with Tyson Signs so we could be ready to go,” Barker said.
He said with the manual sign the condos had 10 or 11 messages it cycled throughout the year. With the digital signs they have 15 messages in rotation a day, Barker said.
“We’re very pleased with it,” he said. “The possibilities are endless as far as business is concerned.”
Businesses in the approved districts such as Family Kingdom Amusement Park, Broadway at the Beach, Coastal Grand mall and the Myrtle Beach Convention Center already can have changeable electronic variable messaging systems, or CEVMS, that allow text, pictures and animation. The ordinance expands the areas where CEVMS are allowed to include additional commercial zones, including parts of Kings Highway and areas surrounding hotels on Ocean Boulevard, but those signs cannot have animation.
In March, the council and members of the subcommittee debated the need for establishing a set amount of time that messages were allowed to stay on a screen – referred to as a dwell time.
Many said it would be difficult to enforce any type of dwell time restrictions.
Means said in March that without regulating the dwell time, nothing could stop multiple signs along a street from changing one after the other, causing a distraction to drivers. Others on the council argued that the market would self-regulate the dwell time of messages.
But so far, Smith said, that hasn’t been an issue. Smith said many of the businesses opting to change to digital signs already had approved manual signs.
“Maybe as the prices of the conversion and maintenance comes down, with the use of LED lights, we’ll see more businesses switch,” he said.
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.