An LED double billboard at the intersection of South Cobb Drive and East-West Connector, which is causing controversy, is shown with blurred lights resulting from slow camera shutter speed capturing traffic streaming by, on Sun., Feb.9, 2020, in Smyrna, Ga. (John Amis)
Photo: John Amis
Photo: John Amis

Cobb business faces boycott after advertising on LED billboard

A Cobb County business owner is fighting calls from some residents to boycott his business after he chose to advertise on a controversial lighted billboard.

Asson Michel, owner of Cycle Elan Studio, is using the newly erected LED billboard at South Cobb Drive and East-West Connector in Smyrna, to promote the fitness studio he opened a little more than three years ago. But now his business has been singled out for a boycott by neighbors of the billboard who hope to discourage business owners from advertising on them.

Cobb County commissioners say they are hearing from angry residents about the South Cobb Drive billboard and others like it.

The LED billboards were installed as part of a settlement agreement that arose from a lawsuit between the billboard’s owner and Cobb County, which had tried to block plans for 22 of the bright billboards around the county.

Michel said he wasn’t aware of the community’s animosity toward the bright billboard, which he said went live in late January. He chose to use the medium to help bolster his business’s reach in the south Cobb area. He said residents on NextDoor, a social media community for neighbors, are calling on other people to boycott his business.

“I’m pretty upset, given the fact that I’m a minority business owner and I’m a small company,” he said. “It seems like this could be detrimental to my business.”

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Cobb County Commissioners approved the settlement agreement in April with billboard owner Vision Outdoor Media LLC. The agreement spelled out the eight locations where Vision Outdoor was allowed to erect double-sided LED billboards: 2245 Roswell Road, Marietta; 1196 Barrett Parkway, Kennesaw; 4070 Austell Road, Austell; the southeast corner of South Cobb Drive and East-West Connector; 2996 Cumberland Boulevard, Atlanta; Cobb Parkway between Akers Mill and Paces Mill roads; and Ga. 92 between Linsdey Way and Surrey Road near the Fulton County border.

Vision could also install a billboard at either 3442 Barrett Parkway, 2480 Dallas Highway, 2505 Dallas Highway, 2283 Dallas Highway, or 365 Villa Rica Way in Marietta. The settlement slashed by more than half Vision Outdoor Media’s original request for 22 billboards.

Vision Outdoor Media could not be reached for a comment.

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County spokesman Ross Cavitt said the settlement allowed Vision Outdoor Media to install the billboards by a certain time frame. Four of the billboards were erected last year and four more will be installed this year, he said. County commissioners and the Community Development Department have received some complaints from residents since the billboards have been installed.

“We put items in their (county commissioners’) newsletters and on social (media) at the time to get the word out, even though we also publicized the initial settlement and the reasons for it,” Cavitt said.

One resident, Mary Kirkendoll of Smyrna, said she favors calls to boycott Cycle Elan and the company should stop using the LED billboard to promote its business. Despite the county’s notifications, Kirkendoll said the community was never informed of “these horrible, unsightly billboards,” which she said are better suited for areas closest to interstates.

“I believe this opens the door for our community to become horribly cluttered, just like Cobb Parkway,” she said of the county’s famous north-south commercial corridor.

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 County Commission Chairman Mike Boyce, who said he has received “sporadic” complaints, said while he understands residents are not happy with the eight billboards, Cobb could have been in a more drastic situation if 22 had been allowed for installation.

He also said the county used social media and other forms of communication to inform residents about the settlement agreement before and after commissioners approved proposal.

“I understand where they are coming from, but we have 760,000 people and they don’t all read newspaper or watch TV,” he said, adding he hopes residents will sign up for their county commissioner’s newsletters.

Michel said he is not only invested in the community by opening his business in Smyrna, but he has also contributed to various charities to help local residents. He said he does not regret using the billboard for advertising.

“We wouldn’t do anything to go against our values,” he said.

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