William E. Board’s comment following my post “How SB 164 Gives Billboard Companies More Power to Cut Public Trees” raised some interesting points. My post was based on what Trees Columbus Inc. Board Member Bob Hydrick, who is a former mayor of Columbus and an adeversting comapny executive, told me. I published MR. Board’s comment in the comment section of the post, but since I am going to publish Bob Hydrick’s response as an artilce, I am given Mr. Board the same treatment. Here is Mr. Board’s comment, which will be followed by Bob Hydrick’s response in another post.
In response to your article above, I have some FACTUAL information taken directly from the new Bill SB164. I realize that facts don’t seem to be the basis for your conversation with Bob Hydrick, nonetheless these are excerpts from the Bill as it sits passed by the Georgia State Senate.
1. Hopefully you will do me the courtesy of publishing this, as I gave you the courtesy of reading your article, no matter how inaccurate it may have been. Below is your article with the sections of the NEW Bill where appropriate to rebut the comments the Hydrick falsely stated. They FACTS are indentified with 6 ******.
Either you are unaware or you are deliberately trying to mislead your readers. Billboard companies have the right to cut these trees now,” Anna McLendon wrote in a comment on my post about the latest effort by billboard companies to obtain the right to cut trees on state and local governmental highway rights of way. She is partially right, certainly, though, not about my deliberately misleading my readers. I don’t do that. The unaware part is the part that’s partially right. I didn’t know as much about the present law or the one that just passed the Senate as I should have. She is wrong, however, in that the billboard companies now have the “right” to cut those trees.
In order to correct my shortcoming in understand the two laws, I called former Columbus mayor and advertising executive Bob Hydrick, who is on the board of Trees Columbus Inc. Bob explained it this way: “What the billboard people have now is the ‘privilege,’ not the ‘right’ to cut trees on public rights of way. They have to get a permit from the state Department of Transportation commissioner. If their request meets certain criteria, he can grant permission to cut the trees, but he can also deny their request. The new law, the one passed by the Senate and is now in the House, gives them the ‘right’ rather than the ‘privilege.’ They won’t have to get a permit from DOT anymore.” ******This statement is TOTALLY inaccurate. The new legislation requires the billboard company to apply and have granted a permit from the Department of Transportation. (From the Bill SB164 – (d) Permit application process and fees:
(1) A vegetation permit must be secured prior to performing any vegetation removal. The permit shall be effective for one year from the date of issuance. Any permitted work not completed during that year shall require the submission of a new application to complete.
(2) Permit applications for vegetation removal will be made by the outdoor advertising permit holder upon the forms prescribed and provided by the department and shall contain the signature of the outdoor advertising permit holder. A separate application must be submitted for each work site. The application must contain all required information before a permit will be granted. The following is a list of all required information that must be submitted with the application form:)******
Now, when a billboard company wants to put up a new billboard, it has to wait five years before it can get a permit to cut vegetation on public property. Being on private property, it can put up the billboard, but it can’t cut trees on public property for five years. The new law ends that prohibition, also. ******This is a misleading statement as well. The new legislation does allow the 5 year time period to be withdrawn, but this new legislation is a pilot program. It will be phased in over the next three (3) years allowing for different districts each year. And if it doesn’t work, the legislators can return to the current system. (From the Bill SB164 – (g) Effective date:
(1) This Code section shall become effective on July 1, 2009, and shall be implemented as a three-year pilot program by department districts as follows:
(A) Year one, effective July 1, 2009: First, Second, and Sixth department districts;
(B) Year two, effective July 1, 2010: Third, Fifth, and Seventh department districts; and
(C) Year three, effective July 1, 2011: Fourth department district.
(2) As of July 1, 2012, this Code section shall become applicable to all outdoor advertising signs lawfully permitted by the department wherever located unless otherwise determined by the General Assembly. Nothing contained in this Code section shall render any sign existing on July 1, 2009, nonconforming.)******
Also, Bob told me, now, they simply cannot cut trees that were planted as part of beautification projects. The DOT commissioner doesn’t have the authority to give a permit for that. Under the new law, that would also change. They would have the right to cut trees planted as part of beautification projects. ******Once again, this is a TOTALLY inaccurate statement. If the trees or vegetation were planted as a part of beautification projects, removal would not be permitted. (From the Bill SB164 -(8) No removal of any tree planted prior to January 1, 2009, as part of any local, state, or federal government or specifically identified beautification project shall be permitted under this Code section unless written approval is obtained from the sponsoring jurisdiction.) ****** There is a suit against the DOT pending on this one, filed by Trees Columbus, Inc., the Gateway Foundation, and the City of Columbus, concerning the attempted cutting of trees planted as part of beautification projects on I-185 inside the Columbus City Limits.
I hope that clarifies what the Billboard industry is trying to accomplish with the new law, SB 164, which passed in the Senate and is now in the Georgia House. You can read the bill by going to this Georgia Senate link. I haven’t changed my mind about how I feel about the law. I don’t want beautification projects on public property destroyed to make it easier to see billboards. I hope you will let your representative in the House know that you do not favor SB 164, which expands the billboard industry’s power to cut down trees owned by taxpayers.
******Now, I’m not sure what Senate or House Bill Bob Hydrick was reciting, but the correct contents of SB164 are included in this rebuttal. The people of Georgia deserve what is right for the State from the Congress it elected. This Bill will bring jobs for the Arborists, jobs for the Landscapers, local advertising who depend on this kind of advertising (To the tune of 10,000+ employees employed by the local advertisers), jobs for the Billboard Company and money to the Georgia Department of Transportation in the form of Fees paid for application and mitigation.
Georgia has more trees and vegetation than most of the states in the country. How are they helping Georgia’s economy? How are they contributing to an increase in jobs? They give us air. And no matter how many get cut down as a result of this legislation, we’ll never run out of that. Oh, and one last thing that Hydrick failed to mention. The Billboard Company will have to lower their signs to 75’ or less in order to obtain and continue with the permit applied for under this new legislation. And at THEIR expense!!
It’s time to think with our heads and not our hates. Georgia is depending on Congress to improve our economy. SB164 is at the very least, a start!
William E Board