The new Mike Sottile highway signs on the Isle of Palms are not 20 feet tall, as some folks have suggested.

They're only 10 — but they are 5 feet wide. And that's big enough to be a small problem for the former mayor and current state representative.

Because a lot of people really, really hate them.

These two signs declare the intersection of Palm Boulevard and the Isle of Palms Connector the “State Representative-Mayor Mike Sottile Intersection,” and they are basically a gift from state Rep. Chip Limehouse.

The Charleston lawmaker sponsored a bill to name the intersection after his delegation-mate, and the Legislature unanimously approved it. The state Department of Transportation put up the signs last fall — just before the November election, critics note.

And people have been complaining ever since.

They say the signs are not only too big, they are out of character for the island and literally overshadow the city's own welcome sign.

And the state didn't ask, or apparently even tell, the city before erecting the signs.

“The whole thing reeks of political cronyism,” says City Councilman Michael Loftus.

Politics at work?

Right now, the Isle of Palms is in the middle of replacing all its signs.

They want to make their own signs more attractive and less intrusive — you know, sort of the opposite of the Sottile signs.

But that intersection is state high

Politics at work?

Right now, the Isle of Palms is in the middle of replacing all its signs.

They want to make their own signs more attractive and less intrusive — you know, sort of the opposite of the Sottile signs.

But that intersection is state highway way property, so the city can essentially pound sand.

“It's not in the City Council's authority,” says Councilwoman Barbara Bergwerf. “I personally wish he had waited until he retired. The fact that he's still a sitting politician concerns me.”

Yes, but this state has a long history of naming things after active politicians, which means they still have a chance to blemish whatever is named after them. Good thing the Legislature held off on that Thomas Ravenel highway.

Sottile got an intersection named for him because of his 20-plus years of public service, including a stint on City Council during the Hurricane Hugo cleanup and eight years as mayor. He is now a state House member.

City Councilman Jimmy Ward says no one has complained to him about the sign, and Sottile's friends say this is all just ugly island politics.

Island resident Nancy Mackey says it's nothing personal against Sottile, it's just that she and others think it's a permanent political advertisement and that's inappropriate.

“The sign is way too big — both of them,” Mackey says. “They just appeared one day and a lot of people think they are unattractive.”

Sottile is not sure what to think. He says he was flattered by the Legislature's decision to honor him, but didn't want to make a big deal out of it. He didn't even have a dedication ceremony for the signs, because he didn't want to draw attention.

So much for that.

Campaign sign?

Shortly after the signs went up, former planning commissioner Diane Oltorik complained to City Council, even though it had nothing to do with this. She says the signs give the island all the glamor and beauty of a trailer park.

“I love this island; it's paradise,” Oltorik says. “I believe we not only have a right to speak out, but it's our duty.”

And she is certainly doing her duty. Since she spoke up, several others have called or written the newspaper to complain about the “ego sign.” Loftus says word has spread that Limehouse was behind this, and he predicts the lawmaker will not carry the Isle of Palms in the upcoming congressional election.

So it's not much of a campaign sign.

So what happens now? Probably nothing. Limehouse says the DOT determines the size of the signs, not him. Sottile says residents are “welcome to call the DOT.”

But it's a pretty safe bet they've already thought of that.