To the Editor

Over the past few days, we have heard from many regarding the new billboard installed at Abernathy and Roswell Road. 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 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 vCounty, and the billboard companies then filed suit against Fulton County. Fulton County Superior Court ruled that 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 of 2012, 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 8, 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 ten 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.

Eva Galambos

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.