Folly too funky for house-number rules? Enforcement to help first responders find addresses

A surf board with 1010 Seacrest Lane, on Folly Beach, lets folks know the house location. (Brad Nettles/Staff) 10/24/13

— Finding a residence here is not necessarily as easy as one, two, three. Sure, there are usually street numbers, but seeing them can be like playing “Where’s Waldo?”

For example, island addresses can be found displayed in unusual front yard locations such as a totem pole, a wooden fish tacked to a tree or a surfboard stuck in the ground. And some houses are behind thick growth with no address visible from the road.

While an arty, bohemian look may be seen as lending character to a neighborhood, officials say it can mean the loss of precious minutes when first responders race to save lives and property. The city is tackling the issue in a new push to get all residents to put street addresses on homes in compliance with a law that has been on the books since 1995. Scofflaws may face a fine of up to $500.

Mayor Tim Goodwin plans a low-key approach. Those judged to be in violation will be contacted and asked to rectify the situation.

“If we don’t get compliance on it, we’re going to write a letter,” Goodwin said. “It’s try to get compliance first.”

Building official Eric Lutz wrestles with balancing the unique vibe of the island and the laws governing public safety. “We like Folly to be Folly. That’s always my dilemma with any of these regulations,” Lutz said.

An estimated 20 percent of 2,500 residences are out of compliance with the address-display requirements. The issue exists because mail is picked up at the post office just off Center Street, where islanders have post office boxes.

Longtime resident Bob Linville said he has no problem finding residences even if the addresses are improperly posted. The push for consistency in the display of street numbers likely will meet with a mixed reaction. “Some people will comply,” he said. “Some people will ignore it.”

He said street numbers on the island are “ludicrously wrong,” including the 1230 Tabby Drive address for his home, which he said should be “13 something.” Proper display of street addresses is not an issue except perhaps for emergency responders or a taxi driver. He longs for the good old days on the island when things were less complicated. “I wish we could go back to the 1960s,” he said. “It was fun back then.”

Under the island code, homes are required to have street numbers at least 3 inches tall made of durable and clearly visible material that contrasts with the color of a residence or building. The numbers are to be conspicuously placed immediately above or to the side of the main door in such a way that they can be clearly seen from the road.

When a building is more than 50 feet from the street, the address must be placed near the driveway or common entrance on a gate, post fence or other appropriate place so that it can be clearly seen. For businesses, the same rules apply, except that the numbers must be at least four inches tall.

Islander Susan Breslin wrote about the issue for the October issue of the Folly newsletter “The Sandspur.” She advised homeowners and businesses of upcoming enforcement of the address ordinance and the potential maximum fine. Personally, though, she thinks that uniform house and business addresses are not a major issue for the 2,600 residents.

“It’s a small town. You don’t really need them,” she said.