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Board agrees to settle sign suit

POSTED: July 22, 2009 4:00 a.m.

The Dawson County Board of Commissioners placed a moratorium on sign permits last week following a decision to settle a lawsuit with a marketing company wanting to set up billboards on Ga. 400.

  

Roma Outdoor Creations filed suit against the county in 2008, contending the county’s sign ordinance, which limits billboards, is flawed.

  

Attorneys for Roma pointed to a 2004 revision to the sign ordinance, which the company says does not reference the Ga. 400 overlay district.

  

Roma also said the county’s 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,” said Commission Chair Mike Berg.

  

The 45 day moratorium would give the county time to make revisions to the ordinance, as well as limit other billboard companies from latching on to Roma’s complaint.

  

“While this has all been done in public, other sign companies may see this. The issue is to close this off so we can fix the problem,” said District 1 Commissioner Gary Pichon.

  

Earlier this month, a superior court judge suggested the county and Roma reach a compromise in the case before the July 20 scheduled court date.

  

Attorneys for Roma, who wanted to put up 14 billboards throughout the county, now plan to install 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.

 

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