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Frequently asked questions about billboards in Johns Creek

October 08, 2014

How many billboards were agreed to in the settlement agreement?

Through our lengthy discussions with the billboard companies, the companies agreed to build 10 billboards (nine LED and one static), as compared to the 31 the Georgia Supreme Court ordered us to allow them to build. That's a 68% reduction, which is significantly less than what they could have built. Please read the settlement agreement for more details.

Where are the billboards going to be located?

No more than 10 billboards may be located on 27 possible locations within 8 nodes, as listed below. Please review the maps for more details.
  • Holcomb Bridge at Barnwell Road/Nesbit Ferry Road
  • West side of State Bridge Road from Kimball Bridge to Morton
  • East side of State Bridge Road from Kimball Bridge to Morton
  • State Bridge Road near Ga. 141/Medlock Bridge Road
  • Ga. 141/Medlock Bridge at State Bridge Road
  • Ga. 141/Medlock Bridge Road at Abbotts Bridge Road
  • Jones Bridge Road at Abbotts Bridge Road
  • McGinnis Ferry Road
When will we know where the 10 signs will actually be?

This depends on decisions made by the billboard companies with respect to their leases with the property owners. We will not necessarily know the details of those decisions in advance of construction.

When will the signs be up?

It's undetermined because the billboard companies are under no time constrictions. Similar to the state Supreme Court ruling, there is no limit on when the billboards can be built.

What type of billboards will they be?

There will be 9 LED signs and 1 static sign.

Will I be able to see the sign from my house?

It depends on where your house is located. But, in general, all the billboards will be constructed on commercial property away from residential properties. The messages on each billboard will be directed at the commercial node/road, not at any residential neighborhood.

Why did Johns Creek settle with the billboard companies?

Following the court's 2011 ruling, the City had no higher appeal and was left with three options:

a) do nothing and let the billboard companies erect all the billboards they were legally entitled to;
b) continue to fight an already litigated battle and face the certainty of penalties and damages — money better spent on roads, parks and other services;
c) try to gain concessions from the billboard companies on number, location, height, size, type, content, and illumination.
The City opted for discussion. Because of the settlement, we ended up with 10 signs rather than 31.

Why did the city originally engage in discussions with the billboard companies?

Since the 2011 Georgia Supreme Court ruling which approved 75 billboards to be built north of I-285, the cities of Johns Creek, Alpharetta, Milton and Sandy Springs began separate discussions with the billboard companies on how many, what kind, and where they would be located within their own jurisdictions.

Each city completed their settlement agreements. In each case, the billboard companies agreed to build fewer billboards than the court had allowed.

It was in the best interest of the community for the City to conduct these discussions and come to an agreement with the billboard companies as the risk of pursuing other options was simply unacceptable.

Were the companies required to discuss details with Johns Creek?

No, they were not. With the court's ruling they could build their signs at any time.

Why are we just now finding out about this?

The City and the billboard companies were involved in a lawsuit. The City had communicated both that the lawsuit had been filed, provided some information that was allowed to be presented publically and let everyone know about the various decisions as they were handed down.

Following the Georgia Supreme Court order, we entered into legal negotiations, which are not public until resolved.

The City distributed press releases, FAQs, a timeline, the Supreme Court ruling, and three letters from Mayor Bodker. Notices were posted on the city website and on social media. Mayor Bodker conducted one town hall in advance of the public vote to approve the settlement agreement, and another town hall is planned for Oct. 30 at 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers, 12000 Findley Road, Suite 300, Johns Creek, GA 30097.

Why couldn't you have delayed the vote?

Johns Creek is the last of the affected cities to approve a settlement agreement. City negotiators were concerned that delay would have prompted the billboard companies to walk away, and the City would lose any concessions gained in the discussions.

Why can't the city stop this or fight these companies harder?

The City has been ordered by the Georgia Supreme Court to allow the construction of billboards. Because the ruling applied to a local zoning regulation (Fulton County's sign ordinance), it cannot be appealed to a higher court.

The court looked at the case through the eyes of the 1st Amendment, which protects commercial freedom of speech. Historically, in cases across the U.S., it's very, very difficult to obtain a favorable ruling when entering litigation against a billboard company.

We have been in some form of litigation on this subject since incorporation in December 2006 (the applications were originally filed with the county before we became a city and we "inherited" the issue). To date, we have exhausted all legal efforts to fight the erection of the billboards, and believe strongly that the best approach is to work with the companies to comply with the court ruling. Several teams of attorneys and experts have reviewed the court ruling and determined that challenging it is both futile and potentially very expensive.

Why have they not installed the billboards up to now?

The billboard companies have been cooperating with Johns Creek on how to carry out the Georgia Supreme Court's ruling. In doing so, there have been lengthy discussions on how many, what kind and where to locate the billboards, ending with the settlement agreement adopted Oct. 20, 2014.

What did the other cities do to implement the court's ruling?

The Georgia Supreme Court ruling was implemented in the other cities with settlements similar to the one adopted by Johns Creek on October 20, 2014.

See Comparison Chart.

Can the City take action against the property owners to stop them from allowing billboards on their property?

No. Any discussion along these lines by the City may be interpreted as tortious interference and subject the City to significant penalties and damages.

Can the billboard companies apply for more sites in Johns Creek?

Billboard companies may apply for more sites, but any new applications would fall under City regulations, which have been reviewed by legal experts and determined to be constitutional.

Does the City receive any revenue from the billboards?

The City will only receive a nominal amount of property tax based on a percentage of the depreciated fair market value of the billboard structure.

Will the billboard companies cut any trees in order to construct the signs?

This depends on how high the signs are. The lower they are, the more likely some kind of trees or foliage will have to be cut. All of the applications are requested for locations on commercial property.

Will LED billboards distract young drivers and put them and others in danger?

Studies show that LED lights actually distract young drivers less than older drivers. To minimize potential distractions, the settlement agreement prohibits LED billboards from flashing, moving, or sparkling. The LED lights also will automatically dim as night comes.

How much money do the billboard companies make for each sign?

The city does not know because it is not involved in the business relations between the billboard companies and their advertisers.

How much are the billboard companies paying property owners for permission to put signs on their property?

The city does not know because it is not involved in the business relations between the billboard companies and any property owners.

Are the billboard companies selling the signs to another company?

The city does not know because it is not involved in the business relations between the billboard companies and any purchasers.

How will the city keep us updated on the progress of implementing the settlement?

We will continue to communicate any information we may obtain with respect to the next steps of the billboard companies. The information will be shared via the city website and in city newsletters and social media.

How will the city enforce content violations?

The city will observe and expect citizens to report to the City any violation of our agreement, just as they would any code violations.

Can the signs advertise in a foreign language? If so, how will the city know if there is a content violation?

Yes. Georgia law prohibits cities from restricting sign language to English. The City will endeavor to translate and follow-up with the billboard companies regarding any content violation.