JOHNS ISLAND -- When Sam Brownlee sees "snipe signs," he sees litter.
The placards, hawking everything from mattresses to real estate, are stapled to poles and stuck in the ground all over the rural island, he said. Not only are they an eyesore, but they fall down and litter the highways. Then mowing crews drive over them, chop them into little pieces and scatter them.
The illegally placed signs are a growing problem not only on Johns Island but also across the region. Most enforcement officials say they are trying to stay on top of the problem by removing the signs and warning those who posted them not to do it again. But Brownlee and some other island residents think that if enforcement officials hit a few chronic sign posters with whopping fines, it would deter others from putting them up.
"It's just gotten out of hand on Johns Island," Brownlee said. "This 'uglifies' our community."
There are other sources of litter on the island, he said. It blows off trucks, and some people just dump their trash on roads or in fields. But the "snipe sign" problem has grown dramatically in recent months, he said. "One sign begets another sign," he said. "It's really a shame."
Brownlee said the intersection of Main and Chisholm roads is a magnet for the signs. That intersection falls in the city of Charleston.
Tim Keane, the city's director of planning, said "the proliferation of signs comes in waves," and the city is seeing a lot of them right now. City employees simply take them down when they see them, and then talk to those who posted them if they can figure out who they are.
"Citations are rare," he said. But posting an illegal sign could carry a fine up to $500.
The problem also has spread to Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.
Read more later at postandcourier.com and also in tomorrow's newspaper.