Top state court to hear billboard-law challenge

ATLANTA (Morris News) – A law allowing billboard companies to clear trees blocking their signs comes before the Georgia Supreme Court Tuesday because highway-beautification groups are challenging its constitutionality.
The measure generated controversy in 2011 when the General Assembly considered it. Garden Club members, who had won a 2002 ruling by the state’s top court, argued the new law would give billboard companies too much power and asked too little from them in fees.
Now officials from Columbus, who had also fought the new law in the legislature, are suing to block it. They say their city’s arrangement with the Department of Transportation to mow medians and plant shrubs along Interstate 185 allows them to halt the cutting of any trees by sign companies.
A judge in Columbus ruled earlier partly supporting the city and partly supporting the sign companies. Now the Supreme Court’s seven justices will hear attorneys from each side give their best arguments, 20 minutes each.
Lawyers for the city contend the new law violates the state constitution’s prohibition on gifts because the way it gives credit to billboard companies dismantling old signs doesn’t fully account for the value to the firms of the trees they cut down.

The sign companies are also unhappy with the first judge’s decision because they say it should have concluded that Columbus’ beautification program didn’t qualify as one permitted to protect trees under the new law. Permitted programs are still limited in where they can plant new trees so that signs will remain visible.

Although the case deals with trees along a West Georgia highway, the decision would apply statewide. Officials in other cities that include interstates that have been considering duplicating Columbus’ plan to spiff up their entrances will be watching the outcome.

“The eventual resolution of these issues will have statewide implications because the definition of ‘permitted beautification project’ is directly at issue and this definition is to be applied statewide,” wrote Columbus attorneys in their court filings.



More Local

MULTIPLE HOMICIDE

Update: BOLO on suspect involved in Saturday night slaying

Update: Thomas Jesse Lee is considered a suspect and is wanted for the murder of five individuals on Saturday night.  On Saturday Janua ... Read More


Violence in Newnan

Map Depicts Gun-Related Incidents In Coweta

In late March 2014, over the span of one week, three people were killed and three injured, due to gun violence in Newnan and Coweta County. ... Read More


‘Newnan Times Past’ makes debut

As part of the celebration of The Newnan Times-Herald’s 150th Birthday, the newspaper is showcasing photographs from years past in a f ... Read More


Cowetan visits Cuba after renewed relations

Last month, a woman from Coweta County got the opportunity to visit Cuba for an entire week and experience the Communist nation that was clo ... Read More


Internet speeds ratcheted up at libraries

Computers at the Coweta County Public Library System get a lot of use – and they are running lots faster these days. Internet speeds h ... Read More

Insurance

House supports bus drivers, cafeteria workers

Members of Georgia’s House of Representatives voiced support for retaining health care benefits for bus drivers and cafeteria workers ... Read More