While billboards may be coming to Johns Creek after a Supreme Court ruling favoring the erection of the free-standing advertisements, the city of Johns Creek is working on a "fall zone" ordinance that would limit what businesses can do with their property once a billboard is built.
The legislation is to create areas where you cannot build structures within a certain distance of the billboards. Bill Riley, city attorney, said there will be a grandfather clause that will allow those billboards with buildings under them at the time the ordinance is passed to remain, but going forward, no buildings will be allowed under the billboards.
The ordinance includes all zoned areas other than industrial areas. When the city started, billboards were only allowed in industrial areas. A 2002 accident in Snellville in which a billboard collapse killed three workers as they were installing the structure owned by Trinity Outdoor LLC and manufactured by Phoenix Structures spurred the city to look at a "fall zone" ordinance.
The fall zone helps prevent such incidents, Riley said. The Snellville billboard collapse killed Lance Stofiel and two brothers, Josh and Anthony Fowler. A fourth worker, Clyde Elrod, was briefly trapped in the rubble of the 35,000- pound structure.
The billboards that are approved in Johns Creek must be compliant with Georgia Department of Transportation rules. Riley said there are currently 13 applications for billboards in Johns Creek. He said they are being reviewed individually and carefully, along with site visits. He said he expects the number to fall due to an overlap with GDOT rules.
In a 7-0 decision on June 13, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of billboard companies who want to install free-standing advertisements in Johns Creek, Sandy Springs and a part of Alpharetta. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were Alpharetta-based Action Outdoor Advertising, Buckhead-based Boardworks Outdoor Advertising Co., Duluth-based Granite State Outdoor Advertising, KH Outdoor Advertising, Steven Galberaith and Larry Roberts.
The companies originally sued Fulton County in 2005, after their permits were denied under a sign ordinance that was ruled unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds by the Supreme Court in 2007. Between May 2003 and November 2006, the companies submitted several applications to the county for permits to erect billboards at various locations in unincorporated parts of Fulton County.
The billboard ordinance must first go to the planning commission before it goes to the city council under the Zoning Procedures Act.