MILTON, Ga. — Milton City Council members put aside the city’s sign ordinance to resolve a lengthy lawsuit over billboards. Council members voted unanimously Jan. 23 to approve up to four billboards within Milton’s city limits.
The decision settles a dispute with four outdoor advertisement companies that have fought to place billboards in Milton for years. Action Outdoor Advertising JV, KH Outdoor, Covenant Media of Georgia and Granite State Outdoor Advertising all initially filed for 16 sign applications, but city officials negotiated it down to four.
“It’s not the best of worlds, but I think it’s the best situation we could have come up with,” said Councilman Bill Lusk.
City leaders agreed on a “node approach” to place the billboards. These “nodes” are areas where the city has approved the signage. Some nodes have several locations within it where a sign could go, but only one sign is allowed in each node.
City Attorney Ken Jarrard presented the five nodes to the council: one adjacent to Ga. 400, three on Ga. 9 and one on Ga. 140.
For Ga. 9, there are three billboard position options on North Main Street and three near Bethany Bend. Ga. 140 has three options as well — 13450, 1365 and 1375.
The possible signs on those roads will be 10 feet, 6 inches by 36 feet, and the one adjacent to Ga. 400 will be 14 feet by 48 feet.
“Once these signs are constructed,” Jarrard said, “they will require no greater protection than any other sign. They are not entitled to any enhanced protection.”
The genesis of the lawsuits over billboard placement in Fulton County dates back 10 years. The county lost several court battles while trying to keep billboards out of its northern suburbs. In 2007, the Georgia Supreme Court deemed Fulton County’s sign ordinance as unconstitutional. It permitted companies that submitted applications under the unconstitutional law to commence placing their billboards, including inside the newly integrated North Fulton cities of Milton and Johns Creek.
“We inherited this,” Councilman Joe Longoria said. “But there aren’t any restrictions on future billboard applications. To give someone a billboard, they have to present an application and adhere to the ordinances that exist. So moving forward, we’re in good shape.”
Councilwoman Karen Thurman abstained from the vote.
ALSO AT THE MEETING
City Council members approved the rezoning of 12855 Hopewell Road from AG-1 (agricultural) to NUP (Neighborhood Unit Plan). Beazer Homes initially wanted to develop 29 single family homes at about four units per acre. Citizens of neighboring subdivisions met the rezoning with some concerns about the density of the new subdivision. Before approval, City Council members cut the number of homes from 29 to 24.
The council also voted to set qualifying fees for the 2013 municipal election. Those fees will be 3 percent of total gross salary of the office. The current qualifying fee to run for mayor is $690 and $390 to run as a City Council member, according to Milton’s website.
All decisions were unanimous. Councilman Lusk was not present for the final three votes.