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SUNSET BEACH—Real estate signs dotting the landscape at Sea Trail may soon be a thing of the past if the Sea Trail Masters Association has its way.
But a group of real estate agents and property owners who met Monday at a Sea Trail clubhouse claimed the association’s recent mandate banning signs, effective this Friday, May 23, is discriminatory.
“It’s very difficult to show property in a community that doesn’t allow signs,” said Sarah Lane, speaking at the gathering attended by about a dozen people at Maples Activity Center.
A letter dated May 7 and addressed to local real estate agencies cites new standards put into effect March 4 by the Sea Trail Master Association’s architectural design committee.
The guidelines prohibit “signs or advertising posters of any kind” on windows, units or lots “without the express written approval” Sea Trail’s architectural standards committee.
“Many of you have received permission to display signs either in the front lawn of homes or in windows of units,” the letter reads, “but now we have to adhere to the new rules and ask that all real estate companies/agents please remove any signs that you have displayed within Sea Trail.
“We apologize for the inconvenience but due to the numerous amount of signage within Sea Trail it has become unsightly and is an issue we want to clear up immediately.”
The letter is signed by Debra Bordeaux, administrator of the Sea Trail Master Association. Bordeaux could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Roy Cundiff, president of the Sea Trail Master Association, referred a reporter’s questions back to Bordeaux.
“I’ve been called many times,” Cundiff said Tuesday. “I can’t give you anything.”
He said the architectural review committee is a “standalone operation,” and under the master association’s declarations can “restrict signage whenever they wish.”
But Steve Candler, director of government affairs for the Brunswick County Association of Realtors, deemed the sign ban unconstitutional.
“This is an issue at the top of our legislative agenda we take very seriously,” said Candler, who attended Monday’s meeting. “We believe it is the right of any property owner to be able to sell and/or market a house in a fashion deemed appropriate, which includes some sort of notification to the public.”
Candler said he knows of homeowners’ associations in Brunswick County that have fairly restrictive sign ordinances, but offhand he could not think of any that ban signs.
“I think the term that came out of the standards appearance committee was ‘unsightly,’” Candler said.
He said he would interpret that to mean the association doesn’t necessarily want signs gone.
“Maybe they need some type of standard that everybody can live by for neatness,” he said. “I’m sure a few more conversations need to be had between everybody.”
Candler said the ban has the most effect on homeowners trying to market their property.
“They’re definitely going to lose traffic,” he said.
According to the North Carolina General Assembly, HOAs have the authority to regulate signs “just like they do junk cars [and] businesses,” Candler said. “It’s the process and the equity that I would like to see addressed.”
Real estate agents also took issue because letters were directed to them and no copies were sent to Sea Trail’s actual property owners.
“It should’ve never been sent to the people it was sent to,” said Pam Allen, real estate agent with Re/Max at the Beach. “It was sent in such an inconsistent, random type of selection of people.”
Allen said Tuesday she was told Sea Trail officials were going out of town for vacation this week and could not be reached.
Allen’s request for a meeting with Bordeaux also was declined, but she said she received a voice mail message Monday from Bordeaux stating nothing will be done about the signs until after the next committee meeting in June.
Allen added she wished she had gotten that statement in writing.
“I feel like we as property owners and agents need legal representation,” she said.