Posts Tagged ‘DOT’

Bob Hydrick Deals with the Facts in the Billboard Controversy

March 18, 2009

Dick: Thanks for bringing to my attention Willam E. Board’s response to your post following our conversations last weekend. If Mr. Board wants to deal with the facts then let’s do so.

Fact: Under existing law and regulations the issuance of a vegetation management (tree-cutting permit) is by definition a privilege and not a right, because the DOT Commissioner has the discretion to withhold (deny) a permit if the vegetation to be removed falls into several categories spelled out in the regulations. This the basis of the lawsuit filed by the City of Columbus, Gateways and Trees Columbus.

Under SB 164, this discretionary authority will be eliminated. Mr. Board is right in that a permit is still required,  but the language reads “shall be issued.” making it a right, which takes away the DOT commissioner’s discretionary authority.

Fact: As to trees planted as a part of a beautification project, as Mr. Board stated SB 164 does protect trees planted before January 1, 2009. But, as he also noted, it makes any trees planted after that date fair game for a mandatory vegetation management permit. Here’s an example of what that could mean. Right now Gateways and the DOT and others are spending millions of dollars in public and private money to landscape the Victory Drive 185 interchange creating a Gateway to Ft. Benning that will be a community landmark. Under SB 164, any trees planted on the rights of way as a part of this project would be eligible to cut any time in the future if the billboard company decides it wanted to put up a billboard adjacent to the project.

Fact: SB 164 is a bad bill and the people of Georgia recognize it as a poll done for Scenic Georgia by the widely-respected polling firm, American Viewpoint last month clearly demonstrates.  500 respondents were asked this question: “Do you favor or oppose the State of Georgia allowing billboard companies to cut down trees on public property so that motorists can see billboards located on nearby private property?” It wasn’t even close: 72% said NO! and 24% said Yes.

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How SB 164 Gives Billboard Companies More Power to Cut Publically Owned Trees

March 14, 2009

“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 any more.”

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 vegitation 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.

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.   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.

You can read MS McLendon’s complete comment, as well as those by others, by going to my previous post on the issue, “I Think I Shall Never See a Billboard as Lovely as a Tree.”