Residents may shudder, but Milton is prepared to relax its rigid sign ordinance to settle a long-running lawsuit over billboards.
City leaders will decide Wednesday whether to settle a dispute with four outdoor advertising companies that have waged a drawn-out battle to place billboards in the north Fulton city known for its pastoral views and horse farms.
Lawsuits over billboard placement in Fulton County have dragged on for 10 years. The Georgia Supreme Court struck down the county’s sign ordinance as unconstitutional in 2007. Four years later, it ruled companies that submitted applications while the county law was in effect could proceed with their putting up signs, including those within newly incorporated north Fulton cities.
This opened up the cities of Milton, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs to an incursion of nearly 50 billboards. Alpharetta, which annexed a portion of the county in 2004, was also in the mix with four billboards.
“It adds to the reason to get away from Fulton County because they weren’t representing us as well as we wanted,” said Milton resident Travis Allen, who heads the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. “It’s unfortunate we’re going to be held responsible for Fulton County’s inaction on the subject.”
Four companies had filed applications for a total of 16 sites in what would later become Milton.
But under terms of the settlement, the companies would be permitted to erect a total of just four signs and the city can limit their size and content.
“Obviously, we didn’t want to have any billboards and I’m sure our citizens didn’t either,” Mayor Joe Lockwood said. “But we felt good, faced with the judge’s ruling in favor of the billboard companies for 16 signs.”
Sandy Springs signed a similar settlement in July, agreeing to placement of 10 billboards from an original 17 applications.
Johns Creek and Alpharetta continue to negotiate arrangements with the sign companies that have applied for sites in their cities.
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