Scott Peters, an attorney who represents two billboard companies that have 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 Wednesday to return to next month’s committee meeting with more information about each of the nine or 10 Marietta billboards that 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 that would 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.”
Parks could get new bathrooms
The city’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Committee, chaired by Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly, made a recommendation to use $47,234 from the 2009 parks bond proceeds to add a new section of granite memorial wall and engrave 275 soldiers’ names on it at Brown Park after some discussion.
The vote was 2-0-1 with Kelly and Councilman Anthony Coleman voting in favor and Councilman Stuart Fleming abstaining.
The request came after local historian Brad Quinn found new names of soldiers now known to be buried in the Marietta Confederate Cemetery.
A local group called Friends of Brown Park will donate $7,000 to pay for engraving the names.
Fleming, the vice chair of the committee, said he thought the cost was too high and there were other, cheaper ways of memorializing the soldiers.
“I struggle a little bit with that kind of capital being used to engrave those names,” Fleming said. “I hope I’m not being disrespectful by thinking of another option. I think there are lesser ways by which we can memorialize their contribution.”
Coleman said he thought the names needed to be added to finish what the city had started in engraving the names.
“You can’t leave certain people off if it’s a memorial,” Coleman said.
The committee also discussed options to replace the portable toilets in the city’s parks.
“We’ve got these first-class parks in the City of Marietta and we’ve got these horrible blue porta-potties,” Kelly said. “It’s just not the face of Marietta.”
Lewis Park, Whitaker Park, Glover Park and Henry Park are the most-used in the city, the council agreed, so they would be the first in line to get bathrooms.
Building a city stand-alone bathroom at Lewis Park could cost $58,500, according to the city.
One option is to hide the portable toilets behind a brick wall structure. Rich Buss, the city’s parks and recreation director, said portable toilets are easy to clean and don’t invite loitering.
Another option is to build a bathroom that uses either compost, similar to how portable toilets work, or water to dispose waste. Buss said that could be costly because the areas are often far away from water and power lines.
The committee asked Buss to come back with more detailed plans for the design of the bathrooms and their cost, but Buss said his department would choose to install buildings with flushable toilets that would need power, water and sewage lines.