Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fulton Pushes Billboards In Northside Cities

By DOUG NURSE The Atlanta Journal-Constitution /

Fulton County is trying to block efforts by several northside cities from interfering with a proposed settlement between the county and the billboard industry.
Fulton County last week notified Sandy Springs it plans to challenge the city's efforts to derail the settlement, which must be approved by the courts. Similar notifications are expected at Johns Creek, Alpharetta and Milton, because all four cities filed motions to intervene in the proposed agreement.

"The board of commissioners voted to resolve the issue with the settlement, and we see the intervention by the cities as means to put the kibosh on the settlement," said County Senior Attorney Steven Rosenberg. "They [the cities] have known about the lawsuits for some time and they didn't choose to do something until the 11th hour."

"We didn't have to intervene until they threw us under the bus," said Milton City Attorney Mark Scott. "Until they passed the resolution we believed in good faith that they were looking out for the best interests of the citizens of north Fulton."

The cities want to challenge the deal because it could result in scores of new billboards being erected within their boundaries. The settlement would allow 31 billboards in Johns Creek, 15 in Milton, 23 in Sandy Springs, three in Alpharetta and three in south Fulton. Johns Creek currently has one billboard, Milton none.
"For Sandy Springs, it would mean one billboard after another along Roswell Road, the main artery in town, beginning at the Sandy Springs city limit to the [Chattahoochee] river," said Sandy Springs City Attorney Wendell Willard. "That is not what the city fathers and mothers want to see happen."

Several companies have filed lawsuits against Fulton County, saying that over the past several years it unjustly refused them new billboards. The state Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional Fulton County's sign ordinance, which served as the basis for the denials. The companies now say the county owes them millions of dollars in lost revenue. One estimate claimed the county would owe $6.6 million, but a county commissioner estimated it could go two or three times higher.

If the courts allow the cities a place in the proceedings, and if the cities succeed in knocking out the agreement, Fulton County could be back on the hook for the lost revenue.
The Fulton County Commission, on Dec. 5, signed off on the settlement negotiated with the billboard companies in which the county would reverse its denials and backdate the permits to the time of application. The applications and denials pre-date the incorporation of Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Milton, but many of the proposed billboard sites are in the new cities' boundaries.

City leaders reacted with outrage and immediately filed motions to challenge the county's settlement agreements. They say the county can't backdate permits and they can't approve permits in another jurisdiction.

County Commissioner Tom Lowe, who represents Sandy Springs, said after the vote that county lawyers warned that the billboard companies would probably win the lawsuit.
"We had what we felt was a bad hand to play with," Lowe said. "It wasn't a winnable situation and it could cost a lot of money."

Commissioner Lynne Riley, who represents Johns Creek, Alpharetta and Milton, was fuming after the vote."I am very, very upset," she said. "The County Commission supported something that they don't have full confidence is even legal. There was no concern for the well-being of the community. I expect they [city residents] will be extremely disappointed that the County Commission who also represents them have abandoned them."


Anonymous said...

for once i agree with Mrs. Riley.

Anonymous said...

Don't believe anything that Riley says. She doesn't do much for Milton. She is a politician with special interests of her own. Does she live in Milton?

Anonymous said...

I personally think that if the billboards are erected in Milton...we should boycott any establishment using said billboards...regardless of whether or not they are local merchants...that may be the only effective way to get the message across...

-Travis Allen

Anonymous said...

Poster # 2 You are right on point about Riley, who resides in Johns Creek.

Anonymous said...

Just add this to the list of reasons why we need to push for Milton County.

Anonymous said...

Given how well the City of Milton has gone, I highly doubt I will be voting "yes" to a county.

Anonymous said...

I agree with NO on new county.