As of Sunday, signs can’t be placed just anywhere in North Augusta.
City Council decided during its March 19 study session to put an end to the off-premises real estate directional sign policy, which was established in 2003, and to enforce the existing city ordinance concerning private signs on public property.
The need to revisit the policy, which had put in writing existing informal policies, became apparent as the number of signs at major intersections grew over the years, said city administrator Todd Glover, who updated the city council on the policy and the sign ordinance at the study session.
“Obviously, we want a strong real estate market in the city, so it was an attempt to help real estate agents market houses and developments in the city,” he said.
The policy allowed directional signs for residential and commercial properties to be placed at city intersections for as long as the property was up for sale. It also allowed open-house directional signs to be placed “off premise” between noon Friday and noon Monday each week.
Over the years, some agents have placed signs advertising themselves, not a piece of property, and other businesses followed suit. There are also other signs for things such as yard sales, home businesses, household or building items.
“The problem has come in where it’s just gotten out of hand. At any major intersection in the city, you may find anywhere from three to 10 signs posted. It was really becoming an eyesore and, not to mention, a public-safety issue” in that the signs sometimes block sight lines for traffic, Glover said.
“It was really beginning to cause so much clutter that the average person just riding by couldn’t read the signs because it was so many of them,” he said.
The council’s decision to enforce the city’s sign ordinance is an attempt to help solve the problem.
The ordinance states that signs cannot be placed on any public property or right-of-way without a permit. Signs that violate the ordinance can be removed by code enforcement officials.
Signs at the entrance of a new development or new subdivision stating that there are lots or homes for sale can generally remain throughout the development’s construction process, Glover said.
It is also important to note that the ordinance applies to all signs, he added.
Notice of the ordinance has been sent to all real estate agents registered with the city. They have a grace period to remove signs that are in violation.
The grace period, which ends Sunday, is to provide time to educate agents on what’s allowed and to help ensure that the impact to real estate business is minimized, Glover said.
“We want to make sure that there is a healthy real estate market in the town, so we are going to work with the real estate agents as best we can to ensure a smooth transition,” he said.
Local realtors are OK with the council’s decision and believe that it won’t have an effect on the health of the real estate market in North Augusta, said Betty Surrency, manager, broker-in-charge and senior vice president with Meybohm Realtors.
More people are turning to the Internet to do research for their next home. Many also plan out their open-house routes in advance instead of “driving around looking for open house signs,” she said.
“We believe a reduction in off-premise signage will increase the value of living in North Augusta. We will continue to enjoy, like many areas throughout the U.S. who don’t allow off-premise signage, a thriving real estate market,” she said.
Glover encourages those who are considering putting up a sign to contact the planning and development or code enforcement offices if they have any questions.
“We don’t want to go out and pull people’s signs up and undo what they’ve done, so we’d rather work with them on the front end and have them do it correctly,” he said.