Over the past few weeks, we have heard from many regarding the new billboard installed at Abernathy and Roswell roads. “How could we allow such a thing to happen? What happened to the protection of our neighborhoods,” many of you asked. Our history with billboards began before Sandy Springs became a city. It is lengthy, but I believe answers are needed to the questions the community is asking.
In 2005, the billboard companies filed for permits from Fulton County while the communities of Sandy Springs, Milton and Johns Creek were still unincorporated. The permit requests were denied by Fulton, and the billboard companies then filed suit against the county. Fulton County Superior Court ruled the county’s sign ordinance was unconstitutional and recognized that the permit applications vested with the sign companies included a right to erect billboards in the cities of Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Milton. The Georgia Supreme Court ultimately upheld this action.
In September, after lengthy negotiations, the Sandy Springs City Council approved a settlement agreement with four outdoor advertising companies — Action Outdoor Advertising, KH Outdoor LLC; Granit State Outdoor Advertising Inc. and Boardworks Outdoor Advertising Company Inc., regarding placement of billboards within Sandy Springs. The negotiated settlement follows the 2011 affirmation by the Georgia Supreme Court of the ruling by the Fulton Superior Court, which determined that the advertising companies had a vested right to build 23 new billboards within Sandy Springs. A majority of those billboards would have been located along Roswell Road.
As part of the settlement agreement, the city was able to successfully negotiate a reduction in the number of billboards to be placed in Sandy Springs from 23 applications to eight, also significantly limiting the number of billboards to be located on Roswell Road. The agreement defines the size and type of the structures for the signs, and includes the use of LED facing of the signs. According to the settlement, the companies must obtain billboard permits within 42 months of the date of the agreement.
The city has worked with all involved to identify 10 nodes from which billboard companies would be able to locate the allowed eight billboards. The billboard companies are now working with property owners to lease space within the ten nodes for location of these billboards. Sign permits have been issued for 6595 Roswell Road (Abernathy Square Shopping Center) and 5565 New Northside Drive (vet clinic – facing I-285). A GDOT permit has been received for property at 8765 Roswell Road, North River Village Shopping Center, but to date, no application for a permit from the city has been received for this location.
We realize that many of our residents would prefer to keep the landscape free of additional billboards. While I agree, we must adhere to the law. Reducing the overall number to eight with the structure specifications was a good settlement for the city. I hope this explanation provides all with a better understanding.
Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos
A summary of the settlement:
o reduced the maximum number of billboards from 23 to eight billboards
o prohibited messages advertising for a number of uses including adult entertainment establishments
o waived legal claims, including attorney’s fees, expenses and damages. (Fulton County was ordered to pay $3.97 million in damages and $477,156 in attorney’s fees) Billboard Standards
o a maximum of 8 new LED billboards are allowed
o exhibit “B” (from the Settlement Packet) defines the location and number of billboards allowed within each node
o conversion of an existing billboard to LED counts as one of the eight allowed signs
o a maximum sign face size of 14 feet by 48 feet
o back-to-back or V-shaped signs are allowed; the angle cannot exceed sixty degrees
o the maximum height for each sign is as indicated on the node map attached to the order (Exhibit “B”)
o height limits of the individual signs shall be determined on a case by case basis based upon a site visit with a toggle stick or balloon
o sign pole setback is a minimum of ten feet from the right of way; no part of the sign structure can extend into the right of way
o LED face change with simulated movement, scrolling, fading, flashing or changes in light intensity is prohibited
o LED message changes at a frequency greater than 8 seconds is prohibited
o LED brightness level at no more than .30 foot candles above ambient light levels as measured at a distance of 250 feet
o applications can only be received within 42 months of settlement date (on or before April 1, 2016)
o permits expire one year from the date of issuance