Following a lawsuit that was drawn out for over a year, a judge has issued an order that allows the city to take down the billboards across from City Springs. The company that owns the billboards, OutFront Media, has filed an appeal against the order.
“Subsequent to our last meeting, the judge ruled on our motions and willed in our favor on all counts,” Mayor Rusty Paul said at a Dec. 3 City Council meeting.
The city received the ruling on Nov. 27, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said.
According to the Fulton County court records, OutFront Media filed a notice of appeal on Dec. 3 for both rulings.
The property is a triangle of concrete and gravel across the street from City Springs, the city’s civic and art complex, that has remained untouched since commercial buildings were torn down by the city in August 2018.
The city has long had plans to create a mini park, called Triangle Park, that would face City Springs, as well as project estimated around $30 million to reconstruct the Johnson Ferry/Mount Vernon Highway intersection into dual roundabouts to decrease traffic and increase walkability in the downtown area.
The issue with the property dates back years. In 2016, the city sought to purchase the property via eminent domain. The city and the former owner reached a purchase agreement for about $4.8 million and the condemnation was dismissed.
According to City Attorney Dan Lee, prior to the purchase, the former owner extended the lease with the lessees that rented the three billboards on the property. The amendment to extend the lease held a clause that said if the property was sold to an entity that could condemn it, the lease would cease to exist, Lee said.
After learning of the clause, the city sued for an eviction warrant, and the case was heard in Fulton County Superior Court in December 2018, according to Lee.
Simultaneously, OutFront sought attorney’s fees, saying if a city files a condemnation and then dismisses it, the condemnee is entitled if they have an interest in the property.
According to the notice, OutFront has appealed the judge’s ruling on the billboards having to come down and on the ruling for the company not being entitled to attorney’s fees.
The city did not immediately respond to a comment request.