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County may settle sign suit

Deal would clear way for 2 billboards on 400

POSTED: July 15, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Dawson County is weighing whether to settle a lawsuit with a marketing company that wants to set up billboards along a main traffic corridor.

  

“You can expect the board on Thursday to discuss the lawsuit, as well as have discussions to do something to repair the sign ordinance regarding future requests,” said Dawson County Commission Chair Mike Berg.

  

At issue is whether the county sign ordinance, which limits billboards, is flawed.

Roma Outdoor Creations says it is, pointing to a 2004 revision which the company says does not reference the Ga. 400 overlay district.

  

Filed in 2008, Roma’s lawsuit also contends the use of the word “may” rather than “shall” when approving variances to the law gives the county’s planning board and commission too much power in deciding requests.

  

“Obviously, there’s a glitch in the ordinance,” Berg said. “Their lawyers, lawyers from [Association County Commissioners Georgia] and now our lawyer are telling us there is a glitch in our ordinance.”

  

Earlier this month, a superior court judge suggested the county and Roma reach a compromise in the case.

  

“We were asked by the judge to see if there’s any way to mediate the lawsuit before the July 20 court date,” Berg said.

  

Attorneys for Roma, who wanted to put up 14 billboards throughout the county, say their client would settle for just two signs, with both on a stretch of Ga. 400 between Carlisle and Kilough Church roads.

  

In exchange, the company would take down two billboards on Hwy. 53 when the contracts with property owners expire.

  

The company also plans to offer discounts to local businesses that advertise on the 50-foot-tall billboards, which Roma Attorney Adam Webb said would meet industry width standards of 14 by 48 feet.

  

If image-changing signs are approved, the billboards would be smaller, he said.

Thursday’s meeting is set for 6 p.m. in the G.L. Pete Gilleland Chambers at City Hall in Dawsonville.

  

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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