By Tia Lyn Lecorchick staff writer

Southern Cross Ranch was approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to have agritourism signs along nearby state roadways to give the business greater visibility.

The Morgan County Board of Commissioners also approved Southern Cross Ranch to place either one or two agritourism signs on county right-of-way roads on Feb. 18.

Chuck Jarrell, director of planning and development, asked the commissioners to seriously consider the pros and cons of allowing more signage on county roads.

“The county already has over 3300 signs that must be maintained,” said Jarrell.

Andy Ainslie, chairman of the BOC, asked if additional signage was necessary considering the widespread use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS). But the owners of Southern Cross Ranch cannot rely on GPS to direct their customers to their location.

“They want the extra signage on county roads because a lot of map GPS programs will send visitors down the wrong way on Seven Island Road once they get to the intersection at Bethany Church,” explained Jarrell.

“What is tough for me, is that we’ve dealt with a lot of signs.” said Ainslie.

“The conundrum we’ve created is that we have been pushing for agritourism, but how can we do that without the approving county signs for this business?” While cluttering county roadways with more signage is a concern for the BOC, Southern Cross Ranch is the only business in the county, currently, to be approved as an agritourism site, with no other businesses even applying for the status as of yet.

Jarrell encouraged the BOC to consider how allowing Southern Cross Ranch to place agritourism signs on county roads could potentially affect signage policies in the future if other businesses follow suit.

“We set the criteria, you have to be pre-approved for the signage through the DOT,” said Jarrell. “But in order to write an ordinance, we need some guidance, if we really want these types of signs on our roadways.”

Southern Cross Ranch will have to purchase the materials to make the signs, and the county will put the signs up.

The commissioners favored Jarrell’s recommendation for a 24-by-24 size sign, which is smaller than the DOT’s signs, which are three ft. by three ft. Jarrell said the smaller sign will be easier to place on county right-of-ways and still be visible to drivers.

Jarrell estimated that each sign will cost about $120.50, which includes materials, lettering and installation. Jarrell will prepare a proposal for the specific locations of the agritourism signs and for adjusting the sign ordinance in the county by the BOC’s next meeting in March.