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County commissioners to discuss billboard appeals at Thursday voting session
FB DCN Government County

Dawson County Board of Commissioners meeting

What: Vote on appeal of billboard application denials

When: Thursday, Oct. 15

Where: Dawson County Government Center, 25 Justice Way in Dawsonville. The meeting is also streamed live on Facebook and Zoom.

Two billboard companies want to erect 12 billboards in Dawson County, and following denials of those plans by county staff, the Board of Commissioners is set to vote Thursday on the matter.

At a specially called meeting held last week, the board was told that each of the applications were rejected by county staff in September for “multiple infractions of the Dawson County Sign Ordinance.”

The proposed billboards, ten 70-foot signs and two 15-foot signs, were applied for by Victory Media Group LLC and Action Outdoor Advertising II LLC, and were proposed to be built on various roads throughout Dawson County, including Lumpkin Campground Road, Blue Ridge Parkway, Dawson Forest Road, War Hill Park Road and Ga. 400.

During the meeting on Thursday, Oct. 8, Dawson County Planning and Zoning Director Jameson Kinley walked the board through each of the applications, listing the specifications of what was proposed and why each was denied, citing multiple deviations from the county’s sign ordinance.

According to Kinley’s presentation, among the reasons for denial were issues with the materials and construction specifications of the signs, as well as safety concerns for motorists, which might be caused by an illuminated or electronic sign.

“Any time we come across a sign or application to be illuminated, we always include (sections of the county sign ordinance regarding signs), just because we want to make sure that it’s not distracting for motor vehicles,” Kinley said. “We would call those out on any sign that would be illuminated, just to start those conversations of, how is it controlled … we just want to be sure those are met, the denial wasn’t strictly based on those alone.” 

Following Kinley’s presentation, Adam Webb of Atlanta-based law firm Webb, Klase and Lemond, the firm representing Victory Media Group LLC and Action Outdoor Advertising II, brought a series of objections to the denials before the board. 

According to Webb, the 12 billboards are intended to help local businesses, especially in the “high growth areas” along the Ga. 400 corridor, and should be seen as a way to help the local economy. 

“You’ve done a lot of growing, particularly in this corridor where these applications are submitted,” Webb said. “But you’ve got all that growth and no assistance to local businesses for directing folks off of 400 to get to those businesses. That’s what’s needed and that’s what these applications are much, much geared toward.”  

Webb also brought up the owners of both Victory Media Group LLC and Action Outdoor Advertising II to speak on what the billboards would actually consist of, and counter some of the concerns that had been raised by Kinley about illumination. 

“Motion is absolutely not allowed,” said Beth Perkins, co-owner of Victory Media Group, when asked about how the illuminated billboards would function. “This is our business. It’s not our goal to provide any type of distraction or glare, that defeats the purpose of what advertising to motorists is about.”

Perkins continued, saying that illuminated billboards would comply completely with state requirements and would not have any strobing, moving or flashing lights, similar to a billboard that is already standing in Dawson County near the North Georgia Premium Outlets. 

Webb also made the case that with many of the applications submitted by the two companies, Dawson County did not process the applications in the required time limit of seven days. 

Because of that discrepancy, Webb claimed the county must approve the permits as is. 

“So the county has a seven-day time limit, but the problem is, when you don’t honor your time limit, the permit has to be issued. Otherwise, you don’t have a time limit. Otherwise, you have an unconstitutional code,” he said. “It’s a harsh rule, but it’s a simple rule and that is the rule.”

Webb said that two similar situations arose with the City of Woodstock and College Park, and both municipalities lost in court and were forced to pay large settlements to the billboard company. 

“Nobody wants any money from this county. So we urge you to accept that harsh constitutional rule,” he said. 

In a statement to the Dawson County News, Dawson County Attorney Angela Davis denied Webbs claims that county staff had not followed procedure with the applications, and stated that they are confident the county’s sign ordinance is not unconstitutional. 

Davis said that she believes the issue of the 7-day time period arose due to a misunderstanding and that the time period allowed by the ordinance refers to business days. 

“I’m confident of the staff’s decision in this matter,” she said. 

Following the presentations from Kinley and Webb, the permit application appeals were pushed to the board’s voting session on Oct. 15.

The Oct. 15 Board of Commissioners’ work session will start at 4 p.m. at the Dawson County Government Center, 25 Justice Way in Dawsonville. The meeting will also be streamed on Facebook Live and Zoom.