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Electronic Billboard Clears Opposition

Neighbors behind Canton Road wanted the sign lowered.

An electronic billboard for a Canton Road site won approval Tuesday despite the opposition of neighbors.

The voted 4-1 to allow Clear Channel to install the on a commercial lot at 3205 Canton Rd. in Northeast Cobb.

Commissioner Helen Goreham voted no without explanation. She did not speak during the 20-minute hearing.

Canton Road Neighbors President Carol Brown did speak against the zoning variance. She was one of six people at the hearing at who opposed the billboard, though the only one to address the board.

Brown said the neighbors behind the sign on Hilltop Drive weren’t against the billboard as long as Clear Channel would go along with four reasonable conditions.

Did the Cobb commissioners do a good job balancing competing property rights by approving the billboard?

Bryan Gaylor, representing Clear Channel, said the company agreed with three of those requests:

  • No advertising for the , which is just south on Canton Road. “I think we convinced them that this was not turning into a Fish Market sign,” Gaylor said. “This was for general advertising.”
  • Angling the sign more toward Canton Road after the change from a two-sided static billboard to electronic on one side.
  • Planting trees on a neighboring lot to the north to screen a previously approved Clear Channel billboard.

But Clear Channel wouldn’t agree to lower the sign from 31½ feet by 4 or 5 feet.

Gaylor said the reduced height would force Clear Channel to remove or severely cut back some trees to the north that would block the sign. He also said the electronics would be more vulnerable to copper thieves at that height.

“We believe it’s not much of a stretch to ask them to lower the sign by 4 or 5 feet,” Brown said, adding that copper theft in that location is unlikely.

The electronic billboard needs a zoning variance because it’s 478 feet from a home on Hilltop Drive, 22 feet short of the 500-foot minimum.

The county planning staff recommended granting the variance because the distance is close to the minimum.

But Brown said that distance isn’t the important one.

The house on the site was destroyed by fire in June, and the Gannon family bought the property from the Wood family in November.

Brown said the Gannons plan to build on a pad at 3220 Hilltop that’s only 360 feet from the billboard.

And the Woods plan to build a home at 3285 Hilltop, whose elevation is low enough to put them on eye level with the 31½-foot sign, Brown said.

“We just wanted to accommodate the request of people to enjoy the quiet enjoyment of their property,” she said, adding that after the Woods invested four decades of their lives on Hilltop Drive, “we don’t think lowering by 4 feet is too much to ask.”

Northeast Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell confirmed that the Woods would face the static side of the billboard, not the electronic side, and that the new angle of the sign would reduce the impact on the Gannon property.

Gaylor also told her that Clear Channel agreed to erect a shield to block the light from the sign if the 100-foot pine trees screening the site thinned out in winter.

Birrell thanked Clear Channel, Canton Road Neighbors and the property owners for meeting and trying to work out their differences, and she made the motion to approve the variance.

Rustique's Outdoor Display OK'd

The other Canton Road item on the zoning agenda Tuesday breezed through the board.

No one opposed Catherine Garner’s request to allow to display some of its merchandise outside, requiring a change to a stipulation banning outdoor storage at the retail business in the 2400 block of Canton Road.

“We started a new business, and we’re just trying to make money,” Garner said.

Birrell assured the public that “this is not outdoor storage in the traditional sense.”

Rustique will display items such as plants, pottery and outdoor furniture just outside the building, not in the parking lot or along the fence on Canton Road.

Birrell’s motion approving the request also gives Peach State Salvage, which does business as Rustique, 90 days to install a new gate.

The motion passed 5-0.

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Michael Jacobs May 16, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Some zoning cases seem straightforward: "Hey, you can't turn your half-acre lot next to my house into a preserve for Bengal tigers!" But this one has some interesting nuances. Would a lower sign hurt the value of the Canton Road property? Does it matter if the higher sign potentially harms the neighboring values? Should a zoning decision be based on what's there now (a burned-out house 478 feet away) or what's planned (a new house 360 feet away)? It's the essence of zoning in a 20-minute hearing.

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