Friday, August 31, 2007

Milton, Johns Creek Are Embroiled In Court Battles

By DOUG NURSE The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published on: 09/01/07

John Steele of Milton revels in the scenic vistas of the newly created city, the sprawling horse farms, the stately homes, and the stacked-stone shops along Windward Parkway.

Nowhere is his line-of-sight spoiled by billboards — and he wants to keep it that way.
"The whole premise of the city was to keep it as rural as possible," said Steele, a development manager and a 17-year resident of Milton. "Billboards are so ugly. There's no place for them in Milton. I don't want to look at them."

The city of Milton and its sister city of Johns Creek are embroiled in court battles with Covenant Media, which wants to put four billboards in Milton along Ga. 9, and 14 billboards throughout Johns Creek. Milton has no billboards; Johns Creek has one.

Both cases are in Fulton Superior Court, being heard by different judges. Decisions could come before the end of the year.

Johns Creek residents jealously guard the upscale architectural and landscaping standards established by Technology Park/Johns Creek years ago.

"Billboards wouldn't be in keeping with the community," said Gary Tipps, a retired electric company executive and Johns Creek resident. "We're trying to keep Johns Creek from looking like other areas that have billboard after billboard. I drive to Florida once a month, and I hate the drive because of the billboards."

Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker said the feedback he's gotten from the public is uniformly against giant signs in the air.

"I think that view is representative of Milton's and Johns Creek's citizens," Bodker said. "There is a sentiment in Johns Creek that billboards are not consistent with the character of the community. We don't have interstates or major roads. It would seem out of place."

Adam Webb, attorney for Covenant Media, said outdoor advertising fills a valuable niche.
"People don't value appropriately the usefulness of outdoor advertising," Webb said. "It is the only medium that is cost effective and targeted for certain kinds of advertising. You can advertise to the entire metro area on the radio, but if you're a small restaurant in Johns Creek, you want to catch the eyeballs of people driving on your street so they stop in."

Last December, when both cities became legal entities, the city councils adopted Fulton County ordinances but imposed a freeze on zoning applications, including signs, to give them time to draw up their own ordinances. Within days, Covenant Media was knocking on the door with applications for billboards.

Johns Creek refused to take the applications. Milton took them. Covenant Media sued them both, saying the freeze unduly restricted its First Amendment rights.

"The billboard companies are trying to take advantage of loopholes in the new cities' ordinances during the transition time," Milton City Attorney Mark Scott said at the time.

The suits also claim that when the cities adopted Fulton County's ordinances, they embraced its sign ordinance. That ordinance had been declared unconstitutional by a superior court, which was later upheld by the state Supreme Court. That would mean the cities' sign ordinances at the time were unconstitutional as well.

The cities are arguing that Covenant should have applied with Fulton County at the time because the cities hadn't accepted planning and zoning responsibilities from the county.
The outcome of one may influence the outcome of the other, Scott said.

"If a judge issues an order, it could persuade the other judge," Scott said. "The cases are identical."

Glenn Barber, a 56-year-old accountant and Milton resident, hopes the courts don't allow the company to erect billboards in town.

"I think it would detract from the beauty of the community," Barber said. "I think when people voted for the city, that's what they wanted to preserve. We don't want to be downtown Atlanta. That's why people moved out here."


Anonymous said...

Covenant Media needs to realize the hell they would catch from the communities (especially Milton) if they try to erect the billboards. The community would need to ban together and go after any advertisers that chose to use them.
This is already a black eye for this outfit and wasting the new cities tax dollars makes them look even worse.
I personally refuse to give business to anyone who advertises on the billboards of GA 400 -- they are UGLY plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

Milton is going to have to continuously fight off issues like these forever if we are going to preserve our area. Hope the new candidates and incumbants are listening. The residents and community in Milton want to remain rural, period, end of story. Those with aspirations of developing it and making money out here off all the horse farms they could snatch up if the zoning gets changed need to take a hike! We don't want to look like or become Alpharetta!!

Anonymous said...

I will honestly say that I will purposely go out of my way to avoid any business that is advertised on billboards in the City of Milton.

That's a promise you can hold me to...and hey, all you businesses that illegally water your grass...better watch out or you're next...that's right Home Depot and Chic-Fila.

-Travis Allen

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote "The residents and community in Milton want to remain rural, period, end of story"

That's a ridiculous and absurd statement. I want to look out my front door and see a 18 hole golf course not pigs, cows, chickens, and goats [and the odor associated with same]

p.s. I am sure your economic black mail with distroy Coke

Anonymous said...

Regarding the most recent comment:
" I want to look out my front door and see a 18 hole golf course not pigs, cows, chickens, and goats" - I would like to ask this person why they think it should be all or none. There are many families who have resided here far longer than most. Such families have many agrarian animals. Much like you want your golf course, others might enjoy having animals; my mother actually has a horse and some chickens and we have lived here thirty years. Just because your shoes fit doesn't mean they fit others. Remember, treat people the way you want to be treated. That should be the Milton Motto.

Anonymous said...

Right on Tim. I'm in complete agreement.

Don't know if anonymous lives on golf course or close to stinking animals. If he is on golf course, stay put. If next to animals, move to golf course. If these options are not acceptable, move out of city. As Lewis Grizzard used to say "Delta is ready when you are brother".

Who drinks coke ??

Anonymous said...

The Milton motto is "There are two ways to do things, mine and the wrong way".

Guess the author of this jewel of a motto.

billboard owner said...

Get ready for the billboards. It's funny how residents of a prosperous town get angry when a small business comes in and tries to make a living. All of you must be Obama supporters who get huge welfare checks in order to live in these affluent areas and not work.