At Wednesday’s work session, city staff presented a design for a billboard to be erected on the northwest corner of the M-Star Hotel at 3027 Cobb Parkway, on the west side of the city between Mac Dobbs and Jim Owens roads.
The property was annexed from unincorporated Cobb into the city on May 20, along with a variance to allow an electronic billboard to be placed near two single-family homes.
A year ago, former Councilman Jeff Duckett and current Councilman Tim Killingsworth voted to approve the variance, with former Councilman Bruce Jenkins and current Councilwoman Cris Welsh opposed.
At the time, the late Councilman Bill Thrash was battling cancer and absent from the meeting. Mayor Mark Mathews broke the tie and the variance for the future billboard passed 3-2.
As part of the variance, the final design of the billboard must be approved by the new council, starting with a recommendation by the Planning Commission.
During a discussion at the Feb. 5 meeting, the majority of the Planning Commission members were concerned about the size of the billboard.
Since then, the height was decreased from 45 feet to a maximum of 35 feet from the base of the structure to the top of the sign.
The Planning Commission recommended approval on April 3 with a 3-1 vote, with Commissioner Craig MacNaughton opposed. Three members of the board, Fred Moore, Jeff Powers and Doug Rhodes, were absent.
Councilwoman Debra Williams said at Wednesday’s work session the members of the Planning Commission were not happy with the outcome of the vote on the controversial property.
“They still are not comfortable with this,” Williams said.
The council will host a public hearing on the billboard’s design Monday evening. The permit process would also require approval by Georgia’s Department of Transportation.
Mathews said granting the variance would only give the business owner an opportunity to apply for the permit.
According to the presentation by American Outdoor Advertising, the company would “provide one segment every other rotation or minute for the City to use as it wishes.”
Councilman: Billboard violates ordinance
Part of the concern about the billboard design stems from its placement atop a 15-foot hill.
According to a document submitted to the Planning Commission by American Outdoor Advertising, which would own the billboard, the average height of a billboard on Cobb Parkway is 46.5 feet.
There are 24 billboards within the city limits, but Kennesaw’s sign ordinance is supposed to reduce the amount of billboards.
Councilman Jim Sebastian referred to the city’s code Wednesday evening, saying the new digital billboard is violating the ordinance.
“Any sign containing an electronic display which is 70 square feet or larger in size shall only be allowed as conversions of existing sign faces on parcels adjacent to the right-of-way of Cobb Parkway and I-75,” the code states.
Along with this contention, approval of the design would place the digital billboard near two homes. The sign ordinance states the structure must be in a commercial or industrial zone no less than 300 feet from a residence.
Simmons said it is 20 to 25 feet from the back property line of the hotel to the neighboring homes. The billboard would be two-sided, with displays on both sides facing west and east.
Although these residents live in unincorporated Cobb, many council members are worried placing the billboard so close would make the City of Kennesaw a bad neighbor.
Extra tax revenue for city
In 1969, Arun Patel, 61, moved to Cobb from India and built his business 13 years ago, now part of the M-Star Hotel chain.
Patel said when his property was annexed there was an understanding the revenue from the billboard would be needed to help pay property taxes.
Eileen Alberstadt, a familiar face at city meetings who has lived in Kennesaw for 10 years, said she heard one of the adjacent houses is for sale.
The other homeowner is a woman who suffers from seizures and migraines, which could be triggered by the moving light of the digital sign, she said.
Patel said he is not asking for a billboard to hurt anyone.
“It is not going to bother them, or do anything to them,” Patel said.
Alberstadt said annexing the property was not a good deal to begin with, and questioned if the decision was for more tax revenue.
The lines keep moving further and further out, Alberstadt said, referencing the 53 acres of county land on Barrett Parkway that was recently annexed into the city limits for a large shopping center anchored by Whole Foods Market.
“I like our boundaries where they are. You are taking away our quaint little city,” she said.