MARIETTA — With the reversible lanes project on Interstate 75 could come the demolition of billboards in the construction’s path. Scott Peters, an attorney who represents two billboard companies with signs on Interstate 75, has asked the City Council to allow his and other billboard companies to work with city officials to save their signs at risk of being removed by the road project.
The I-75 expansion is slated to begin this summer and open in 2018, said Edye Lanzo with Terrell Hundley Carroll Right of Way Services, a firm working with the state on the project.
The City Council’s Judicial/Legislative Committee, which is chaired by Councilman Philip Goldstein, asked the companies to return to next month’s committee meeting with more information about each of the nine or 10 Marietta billboards Peters said would be affected by the transportation project.
“What we were hoping to get was approval to meet with staff and work through these issues,” Peters said.
Marietta’s billboard ordinance prohibits signs within 100 feet of I-75.
“Most of the billboards now — if they were to be removed — would not be able to be replaced unless they were to get a waiver or a variance from the City Council,” said Rusty Roth, the city’s zoning manager.
The mayor said he thinks it would be hard to find a way to encompass the requests of the companies in a variance.
“I cannot envision how you put that in an ordinance,” Mayor Steve Tumlin said. “The challenge here is some of them might not stay on the same property.”
But, Tumlin added, if the companies were able to draft a proposal for an ordinance with city attorney Doug Haynie, the council would look at it.
The state’s transportation department would have to pay landowners and billboard owners if the expansion of the highway forced them to give up or demolish their property.
“In some cases, you would have a whole piece of land get taken by the state, and so they would have to compensate the land owner and the billboard company owner for that,” said Brian Binzer, the city’s development services director.
“In some cases it may be just that they need to be adjusted a little bit.”
Peters said the money it would take to pay off the property and sign owners could be put to better use.
“We think that it’s a better use of taxpayer funds to pay for road construction than paying billboard companies to take down signs that already exist and landowners for lost rent on land that’s lost,” he said.
Peters requested the legislative committee consider a new ordinance to allow the billboards to remain with adjustments to move them away from the road or change their height.
“Most of the signs that are being affected could be preserved through what I call adjustments,” Peters said.
Goldstein wanted more specific information about each sign that would be affected.
“What I would be looking for is for you to submit exactly what you’re asking for each location,” Goldstein said. “You’re trying to corner us into a position before we look at it.”