WADMALAW ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - Pete Ambrose chose to hear the bad news first.
Late Monday, the farmer and owner of Ambrose Farms on Wadmalaw Island got wind of a $1092 citation issued by The City of Charleston, for advertising signs he posted on city property.
The signs read, U-Pick Strawberries and list a phone number for Ambrose Farms. Farm owner, Pete Ambrose says he posts the signs annually, and has been asked to move them before, but never fined.
"You can't really tell where city property is, or James Island property, or county property," he said.
According to the SC Code of Laws, agricultural signs within 32 square feet posted for 90 days or less, are legal.
In a statement from a City of Charleston spokeswoman, the "U-Pick" signs violated city code section 54-404:
A sign which is tacked, nailed, posted, pasted, glued or otherwise attached to trees, poles, stakes or fences, or to other objects, and the advertising matter appearing thereon is not applicable to the present use of the premises upon which such sign is located.
The statement also said the fine was a direct result of resident complaints, and was issued to 28 businesses total. According to a city spokeswoman, the $1092 is the maximum bond, but could be lowered at the discretion of the judge.
"Each business that was cited had been warned in the past for placing such signs in the right-of-way."
Ambrose told Live 5 News he will not contest the fine, but is hoping to start a dialogue with the city to find an alternative form of advertising for local farmers.
Ambrose posted the citation on Facebook late Monday, and received an overflow of support on the social media site.
"There's so few of us, if we tried to get together and make a march, nobody would even care," he said.
"This might be the only way I can have a forum with council, or the mayor."
The statement from Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. can be read in its entirety below:
MAYOR JOSEPH P. RILEY, JR.
RE: CITATION AMBROSE FARM RECEIVED FROM LIVABILITY DIVISION
I understand the upset and frustration that the Ambrose family is feeling. They provide a valuable service to the community by growing and selling fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables.
A number of years ago, the community demanded the elimination of "snipe signs," which are defined by City code section 54-404 as a sign which is tacked, nailed, posted, pasted, glued or otherwise attached to trees, poles, stakes or fences, or to other objects, and the advertising matter appearing thereon is not applicable to the present use of the premises upon which such sign is located. At the time, this type of sign was proliferating everywhere, particularly on James and Johns Islands, and there was strong community support for an ordinance to prohibit their use.
Recently, the Livability Division received a number of complaints from residents regarding snipe signs being placed in the right-of-ways by businesses advertising a product or service. The residents complained that the signs are a public nuisance and litter the roadways throughout the City. Livability officers have issued citations to 28 different businesses for sign violations. Each business that was cited had been warned in the past for placing such signs in the right-of-way.
The question was also raised as to why political signs are allowed in the right-of-way and signs advertising a product or service are not allowed. In fact, political signs are not authorized to be placed in the right of way, and are regulated by City ordinance section 19-441 titled political signs in public rights-of-way unlawful:
"From and after January 1, 1996, it shall be unlawful to place or allow to be placed, a sign promoting a political candidate or party within a state maintained street, highway or rights-of-way in the corporate limits of the City of Charleston, or within any right-of-way in the corporate limits of the city that is maintained by the City of Charleston."
It is the mission of the Livability Division to create a system that effectively and efficiently enforces applicable ordinances to improve the livability and quality of life of all City of Charleston residents, while being fair and just to the violators.