Debate over digital signs heats up

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Drivers in the Myrtle Beach area could soon see more flashing digital signs in front of schools, hotels, and businesses.

Currently the city only allows a handful of places to have digital signs at the street level, including the Myrtle Beach Area Convention Center and Broadway at the Beach.

The city council is considering giving the digital option to all businesses, and this is turning on a big debate about going digital.

Joe Clemmons runs the Towers Hotel right off of Ocean Boulevard and 18th Avenue North, and with the number of hotels lined up in that area, he knows that his business has to stand out.

Clemmons says, "The growing need to capture an audience is getting more intense everyday."

The City of Myrtle Beach is considering changing the traditional whiteboard advertising signs for more street level digital signs within city limits, and Clemmons thinks a brand new digital sign would brighten up his business.

"People are constantly driving and looking for rooms. So anytime you have an opportunity to connect, the digital would be a good way to do that," Clemmons explains.

If approved, the changing signs would not only affect people looking for temporary rooms, but also people who live in Myrtle Beach year round. George Bryan, who lives next to what many consider busy Kings Highway, has some concerns.

"If it was in abundance, it could pose a bit of an issue," said Bryan. "Plus this area still has kind of an old school, beachy feel to it. And I feel like that might ruin it a little bit. "

Since there has been such a big debate about allowing more digital signs, the city has now formed a new committee to take a closer look. City council members, business owners, and residents will come together at the same table to see how digital signs will affect the Grand Strand.

The talks are stirring up old discussions, as a couple of years ago city council looked at the possibility of allowing digital signs, but decided only to stick with billboards. Now that there's new talks to bring electronic signs lower to the ground, some city staff members say together they will look at all options.

"We don't want it to become the next Las Vegas," said Allison Hardin, with the City of Myrtle Beach Planning Department. "But we do want to balance out the rules between residents and business owners and business interests. Between tourists and locals. We always want to consider the balance and find a compromise."

The new committee is expected to meet at least five times before making an official recommendation. If there is a decision to make any changes, then you will get a chance to voice your opinion when the city holds a public hearing.

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