Signs in Carolina Forest
As long as signs are abandoned in Carolina Forest, Richard Skrip will haul them off.

Horry County officials have asked Skrip and other volunteers with the group Beautify Carolina Forest to allow county staff to deal with the signs, but he said the problem persists and he will do something about it.

“It seems that everyone is in agreement that illegally placed signs are a nuisance and a distraction from the beauty of our community,” Skrip said via email. “But so far no one has adequately managed the situation.”

Skrip regularly leads litter cleanups in The Forest, and he also mows the grass in some of the landscaped medians on River Oaks Drive and Carolina Forest Boulevard.

“We have to remove the signs because we don't want to create a littered mess (which we will have to clean up) or damage our mowers,” he said. “We asked the county numerous times to remove them. They have not. So we do it, because we have to.”

Last month, a county police officer emailed Skrip, asking Beautify Carolina Forest members to stop removing the signs. The officer said a recent court case would impact the county’s sign ordinance and the signs should be left alone because of concerns about “certain protected speech.”

When asked about the email, county spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said the officer “misspoke” about the sign ordinance. However, she did say volunteers should not be removing roadside signs.

“The issue in this case is this and only this: Other than the sign owners, Section 1013(b) of the Horry County  Zoning Ordinance authorizes the Zoning Administer or designated staff to remove signs in the right-of-way, and no-one else,” she said in an email.

The county’s sign policy outlines guidelines for open house signs, campaign markers, real estate signs and other posts. There are specific guidelines for sign sizes and locations.

For example, campaign signs are not allowed in a public right of way and they can’t go up more than 45 days before an election. They also must be removed three days after an election. Under the current policy, the county can seize noncompliant signs and dispose of them.

Skrip said his group has been talking with county officials about the sign problems since it formed in 2014.

In the medians and along roadsides, people erect signs for department stores, mattresses and other businesses.

“Not only are the signs illegally placed in the roadway right-of-way, they are usually placed haphazardly in the ground, or even wire-tied or bolted to highway road signs,” he said via email. “Some signs, with heavy metal posts, are placed near intersections where vehicles tend to use the shoulders of the road during a sudden stop. … The driver would most likely strike the signs to avoid an accident, an obvious safety concern. They are also placed at intersections, sometimes in clumps where motorists can get a good look at them. Unfortunately, the mowers can't mow the grass where the signs are placed, or the mowers simply mow them down and create a littered mess when the signs are shredded to pieces.  We are inundated with these signs in our community and most are repeat offenders.”

Last summer, county council members said they wanted to crack down on the troublesome signs. They even suggested a fine system that would penalize people who leave the markers along the roadways.

Councilman Johnny Vaught said county officials ultimately decided they didn’t have the manpower to dedicate any staff members exclusively to removing signs. They did, however, instruct staff to keep an eye out for the signs as they drove through the county.

“We told our enforcement people that when they are out, they need to pull them,” he said.

As for the larger signs, Vaught said county staff are supposed to contact the sign owners and ask them to remove them. 

Those changes, however, have not solved the problem, Skrip said. He said he recently flagged down a county code enforcement vehicle and pointed out some of the neglected signs. 

“He went back and picked them up, but neglected to retrieve the signs a couple of hundred yards down the road,” he said. “It clearly wasn't a priority.”

Until that changes, Skrip said, his group will continue pulling up signs. 

“We’re doing our part to keep our community looking nice,” he said, “since there is lack of county services to manage these situations.”

Social Media Coordinator for Waccamaw Publishers. 

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I'm the editor of myhorrynews.com and the Carolina Forest Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Horry County, South Carolina. I cover county government, the justice system and agriculture. Know of a story that needs to be covered? Call me at 843-488-7236.

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