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

Health care boosting Coweta's economic outlook

Coweta County has taken the lead as the strongest job market in the Three Rivers region over the past year with an employment gain of 8.1 pe ... Read More


Two injured in rollover accident

Two teenage girls were injured and transported to the hospital after their vehicle overturned multiple times on Highway 154 Thursday. About ... Read More


Suspicious van harbors harmless investigator

A number of SummerGrove residents recently noticed a suspicious man who was allegedly watching children in their neighborhood from a gray va ... Read More


Downtown cleanup Saturday

Operation Cleanup, a trash pickup project for the back streets of downtown Newnan, will be held Saturday from 8 to 10 a.m. Everyone is invit ... Read More


New retail bakery coming to Newnan

Your Chef to Go Inc. will be expanding their catering business to include a retail bakery, as the Newnan City Council approved its rezoning ... Read More

Historical society exhibit open this weekend

The Newnan-Coweta Historical Society will be opening two new exhibits this weekend. The Simple Pleasures national photo contest open Sunday ... Read More