Billboards vs. trees — which has your support?

An intense political war returns to the state legislature Thursday — the one between billboards and trees, writes AJC reporter Ariel Hart.

Under House Bill 179, billboard owners could clear-cut state-owned trees from in front of their signs, so that drivers can better see the advertisements, Hart reports.

It’s a colorful war, Hart says. Ladies in green jackets and scarves – the signature attire of the Garden Club of Georgia — have swarmed the legislative committee hearings, arguing the bill will leave swaths of highway bereft of oaks, sycamores and other trees that now are protected.

Heavy-hitter lobbyists swarmed back, responding that jobs and hard-earned profits are at stake, Hart reports.

Which side are you on? Why?

Should the trees stay up?

Should sign owners just raise the signs?

Will jobs be jeopardized?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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88 comments Add your comment

Southside Shawty

February 24th, 2011
8:30 am

All these business folks have to scream is the word ‘jobs’ and the sheeple will fall over each other in agreement. Driving down 75 in South Georgia is already a disgrace for people who live in this state, at least for me. Now these ‘businessmen’ want to clear cut acres of trees so more drivers can see the number of brothels and ’spas’ in this state. Instead of whining about Sunday sales, maybe the Talibaptists should worry about all the wh*re houses down near Perry.


February 24th, 2011
8:34 am

I’d like the trees to be cut and the signs lowered. Cutting trees will look a lot better than signsabove the tree tops.

Road Scholar

February 24th, 2011
8:38 am

Southside : Agreed! The “picket fence” of billboards in south Ga and elsewhere in this state is an embarrasment. Can’t the billboard industry just understamd the word NO! Will the bill allow for the clear cutting of billboards? And the proposal to reduce the per cut tree fee based on their expense to cut the trees is priceless!

But the most priceless item is the election of a billboard owner to the GDOT Board! Oh sure, he pledges not to get involved…yeah right! It’s like assigning a pimp to a children’s welfare and rights commission!

Bill Todd

February 24th, 2011
8:38 am

I fear that the deal is already done, and that high-powered lobbyists with sound-bite code words will prevail over earnest ladies from garden clubs. Compare and contrast the cul-de-sac I-185 to Columbus with its main artery I-85 around Newnan, where there is a giant sign every few hundred feet. One actually has to strain to view the scenery between the signs. It’s very sad. I make a special effort NOT to read these signs, and if I accidentally gaze at the message on one, I go out of my way to avoid that merchant.


February 24th, 2011
8:42 am

All the billboards on Georgia’s highways are a shame and embarrassment to our otherwise beautiful state. As in many other states, why not have one large sign near each interstate exit for businesses to advertise? The billboard lobby must be very influential; and it goes without saying that it’s all about money.

Joyce Corbin

February 24th, 2011
8:52 am

The bottom line is the signs are ugly and an embarassment. The South has always had beauty and charm but the signs down 75 and 95 are a disgrace and now they want to cut trees! Do you really need to be a rocket scientist to see the ugliness of them? Get real here, people are going to stop when and where they choose with or without ugly signs.


February 24th, 2011
8:55 am

don’t cut the trees — don’t raise the signs — quite simple


February 24th, 2011
9:03 am


February 24th, 2011
9:07 am

I am not a tree hugger, but those signs are a total eyesore. Take them all down. Love going to towns and states that do not allow road signs or limit their impact.

GA Driver

February 24th, 2011
9:11 am

IF the fix is in by billboard lobby, then there is still room for comprimise. I’ve driven over large portions of I-75 Tennessee and Florida. Nowhere but by home state have the billboards taken on such gargantuan proportions. Even my kids ask why the signs are so tall you can’t even read them.

I have no illusions of ever getting rid of billboards in Georgia, but bringing them back down to eye level and limiting the size and spacing of them is entirely possible under Constitutional law. The state and local governments can generally regulate the size and appearance, but not the content. Since taxpayer dollars and GDOT maintanence make the abutting waste property valuable for billboards in the first place, quid pro quo is possible and should be expected by our lawmakers. Selectively cut trees, IF the size and spacing are regulated back down to to ground level. Just because someone tells you to jump doesn’t mean you have to.

Brad Steel

February 24th, 2011
9:11 am

Is this a practical joke?

It must be. It is too stupid to be otherwise. The proposed law should be one outlawing billboards. They look like crap and do nothing for anyone. Billboards are awful.

Jobs What a canard!!! They should have stuck with their freedom of speech BS. At least, they could have gotten the Tea Party sheep to join in their chorus of indignation.


February 24th, 2011
9:20 am

NO tree cutting! NO MORE stupid billboard pollution. I make a point of not patronizing any business or venue that uses billboards to advertise.


February 24th, 2011
9:21 am

Maybe we could require billboard companies to pay to plant 10 big trees elsewhere in Georgia for each billboard they put up. Our highways will look like junk to us but all the Republicans see is $. They’d sell their mother for money. Legilators should also be required to wear NASCAR-like jackets showing the top 10 companies that donated to their re-election campaign. Then we would understantd the laws that are being passed.

Kathy Harris

February 24th, 2011
9:36 am

TREES, TREES, TREES!!!! Trees are a vital part in the maintenance of the ecosystem that supports life – our lives. Billboards are an eyesore at best, and blatantly offensive at worst (ex. “All nude dancers!” on 85-S)


February 24th, 2011
9:39 am

Leave the trees; take down the signs. I will never patronize any business who has cleared the trees from around their tacky billboards.


February 24th, 2011
9:39 am

They should cut all the trees down and put up even more billboards! That way travelers coming down I-75 can take note of the businesses that North Georgia is built on – truck stops and topless babes!

Ken Henson

February 24th, 2011
9:50 am

Large trees and trees planted by local governments are currently protected.HB 179 eliminates this protection.Only trees 75 years old or permitted trees are protected.99.99% of trees planted as part of local plantings were not permitted.Who decides if tree is 74 years old and can be cut or is 75 and can not be cut? The Billboard owner gets to decide the age.In future no local government can plant tree within 500 feet of a billboard and this will stop most local beautification programs.

This bill has new mandates on GDOT and will increase GDOT costs to administer program.Taxpayers will also give credit to billboard owner for taking down a dilapidated sign.This is another corporate welfare bill.Taxpayer pays for program and Billboard owner gets to cut state owned trees.Nobody would pay their neighbor to come on their property and cut their tree.

Ima Greedmonger

February 24th, 2011
9:53 am

Our political hacks, paid off by the billboard greedmongers, have already made Georgia one of the trashiest states in America. Now they want to make it even more unsightly by bulldozing the few trees we have standing beside our highways.


February 24th, 2011
9:53 am

I find it amusing that all of these peope state they won’t patronize business that advertise on billboards. I guess they don’t go to doctor’s offices, fly on airlines, watch TV, listen to the radio, eat food or drink Coca Cola amongst many others.


February 24th, 2011
9:54 am

Trees are necessary. Billboards are not.


February 24th, 2011
9:59 am

The billboards Georgia already has are enough of an eyesore. They pollute what otherwise would be lush and beautiful landscape. When I drive in from other states and suddenly billboards begin appearing like weeds, I sigh and think to myself oh great…I’m back in Georgia. Don’t we have enough billboards already? Is it even possible for Georgia to get any more tacky? These are questions I ask myself all the time. This article comment in particular I disagree with: “The fact is, outdoor advertising attracts people who are traveling through our state to stop and spend money in our state,” Poe said. Here’s a fact for you. Imagine how many tens of thousands of drivers, myself included, ignore these monstrosities. I find it hard to believe that billboards are an “attraction” to incoming visitors from other states. I should have shirts made that say “Welcome to Atlanta, Land Of Billboards.”
Where is the data that shows how many accidents billboards cause? Billboards are not an attraction, they are a distraction! Our tourist slogan should be changed from “every day is an opening day” to “come stare at our numerous billboards while you sit in our traffic”.

Doesn’t anyone remember a few years back when the tornado came through and that billboard collapsed and crushed all those cars?? Have we honestly lost our minds??

If you travel up 400, Alpharetta has done a great job keeping billboards from polluting the countryside, and the effort they are putting in to beautify the on and off ramps especially along Windward Parkway is greatly appreciated and looks spectacular. Unfortunately, just to the north is Cumming, the sellout city when it comes to billboards. This place and Atlanta share several similarities. Everywhere you look another billboard is being put up, and the video billboards are a nightmare when they blind you at night. Why not repurpose them to show parking information, current and upcoming weather, or perhaps a tranquil forest as a remembrance of what once existed on that spot.

Here’s a solution. Get rid of ALL billboards. Get a crane and a cutting torch and get rid of each and every last billboard in Georgia. I would never move to a town that was inundated with billboards, in fact, I would make it a point NOT to give any of my business to the places and services advertised.

As long as there’s people willing to line their pockets with money for destroying the beauty of our state, and as long as we sit back idly and let this happen, billboards will continue to spread like a cancer.

Ellen Fix

February 24th, 2011
10:00 am

Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont BAN billboards altogether throughout these beautiful states. Whatever “job losses” might occur as a result of restricting billboard placements is certainly made up with the rise in tourism fostered by preserving trees — a part of the scenic attraction that encourages people to visit those states.


February 24th, 2011
10:05 am

Trees! This is a no-brainer. There are many other better ways to advertise in this day and age. Certainly the trees could be trimmed on existing billboards. But advertising cost us all money. It doubles the price of some products.

Inman Parker

February 24th, 2011
10:15 am

The billboards here are really bad. When I bring people in from out of state that is one of the first things they comment on, and not in a positive way. There has to be a more organized, less obstructive way for these businesses to advertise without ruining the natural feel of north Georgia. Why does it have to be one or the other?


February 24th, 2011
10:21 am

Trees! Billboard companies can already lower signs under current law. We cannot keep baiiling businesses out of bad decisions. They need to step up and be responsible. We should give away our public resources.

Don Daniel

February 24th, 2011
10:23 am

If billboard owners can cut trees on state taxpayer owned property, does that allow me to go on state property to cut wood for my fireplace, wood stove, tree posts, etc?


February 24th, 2011
10:24 am

Our Republican legislature at work! What the h—, cut the trees, drill for oil, kill some dolphins too while you’re at it. Maybe baby panda bears.

Oh yeah, and we DEFINITELY need guns in churches. BRILLIANCE AT WORK!

Showme Kid

February 24th, 2011
10:27 am

Why can’t a compromise be reached where the people cutting down a tree which is blocking a billboard be required to plant other trees similiar to the requirements for other developments?

red ryder

February 24th, 2011
10:41 am

all the legislators should be required to ride up I-85 north thru Franklin County and see how badly these huge signs have ruined the view along our highways. ban them all !!!!!


February 24th, 2011
10:45 am

Create jobs? how so? It’s a 15 minutes of fame job: remove the trees and you’re back on unemployment. Considering most people don’t want to take hard labor jobs, it sounds like a bunch of buzz words from idiots who shouldn’t be allowed in the legislative floor in the first place. I’m looking at you, lobbyists. Full of hot air and money, just like those people you’re pleading to. Disgusting.

Definitely save the trees and clear-cut the billboards. Ever been on a cross-country road trip, lobbyists? It’s not the billboards you remember, it’s the landscapes.


February 24th, 2011
10:48 am

I agree with Ellen Fix completely and couldn’t have said it better! “Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont BAN billboards altogether throughout these beautiful states. Whatever “job losses” might occur as a result of restricting billboard placements is certainly made up with the rise in tourism fostered by preserving trees — a part of the scenic attraction that encourages people to visit those states.”

If they can do it and still have jobs why can’t we? Where do you think those jobs are going to go? To China? Because they have billboards?

Georgia COULD be a beautiful state again.


February 24th, 2011
10:51 am

I don’t think anyone believes that billboards of the type you see on the interstate are of any worth whatsoever. Appearance, Size, design, scale – they are the dumbest and ugliest imaginable. Limit it to the signs at exits telling you what stores are there. Billboards in urban areas (Times Square or Tokyo) can be very cool and add to the street life. But not on the interstate, and not at the expense of trees. I like the areas of the interstate where there are no billboards, and hate all the areas mentioned above (S I-85, N of the city on 85 and 75)


February 24th, 2011
10:52 am

I lived in Maine for three years (they don’t have any billboards) and it is like driving in a National Park. When we drove across the line into N.H. or Mass., it was a shock and seemed garish. I guess if you’ve never driven in a state without them, you can’t really appreciate it, but it would suit me fine if they lowered all the signs and stopped cutting any trees. Lets face it, there are nowhere near as many jobs associated with billboards as the “industry” touts.


February 24th, 2011
10:53 am

The drive down 75 is south Georgia is horrible. Billboards everywhere. The billboard congestion is so bad that it can be seen from the air when flying from Atlanta to Valdosta. I do not believe that eyesores are the best way to market our state to visitors traveling through. Ban billboards on interstate highways altogether.


February 24th, 2011
10:54 am

BIllboards are UGLY anywhere. They should be eliminated. I NEVER STOP OR BUY ANYTHING FROM BILLBOARD ADVERTISERS. Stop patronizing those who pay for billboards.

Painted Black

February 24th, 2011
10:56 am

The bill is bad public policy, plain and simple. It has no place in Georgia. Billboards are as hazardous to drivers as texting. Yet these devices are INTENDED to distract motorists, whereas distractions from cell phone usage is merely a consequence.

Ad Boy

February 24th, 2011
10:57 am

I work in advertising and I can tell you that outdoor boards are a thing of the past and our clients are no longer interested in it as a medium for reaching their target markets. But the OAAG (Outdoor Advertising Association of Georgia) would have us believe different. Why? Because the jobs they are talking about saving are their own.

Painted Black

February 24th, 2011
11:00 am

On the other hand, sure – why not. The highways, paid for with public funds, already subsidize the auto makers, the tire makers, and every other opportunist who figures out how to latch-on to the public teat. What harm could be done by accomodating another leech?


February 24th, 2011
11:02 am

I say take those ugly ass Billboards down…..Trees have a purpose…


February 24th, 2011
11:04 am

I agree with most of the posts here…I deplore billboards. I think they are such an eyesore and completely unnecessary. My husband and I (very much a Southern gal!) vacationed for a week in Vermont and found it to be a beautiful state. Plus, we were able to find gas stations, restaurants, area attractions, etc. just fine. Folks are right…many billboards in GA just advertise the next “spa” down the road and have nothing to do with legitimate employment and industry. I cannot understand why anyone with any common sense (Do legislators still have any?) would support billboards over trees. Plus, many are so huge…sounds like someone in this industry is trying to compensate for some type of shortcoming! Also, I support Sunday alcohol sales!


February 24th, 2011
11:06 am

Don’t worry, legislators will cave to the billboard lobby. We could show a poll that says 99% of citizens in this state don’t want trees cut to make way for billboards and the legislators would stilll screw the public over.

Small Gov't My A##

February 24th, 2011
11:08 am

What is there to discuss? NO, NO, and NO. Billboards are an eyesore. Why does “pro business” automatically mean that every square inch of the PUBLIC (re: not “commercial”, but “public”) SPACE is fair game for advertising? Why do we have to be subjected to private businesses trying to sell us CRAP everywhere our eyes happen to land? Why is this acceptable? Why is this considered a “right” of business? The “jobs” argument is thugish extortion-speak demagogary and is a perversion of the discourse, but they aren’t interested in a dialog, they just want what they want and will lie, cheat, and steal to get it no matter what.


Why is that? Where is the public benefit? Why don’t the citizens have a right to refuse and regulate it? (because we all know how this is going to turn out, right?)

It’s not like it creates a competitive disadvantage if ALL billboards suffer the same fate. What part of PUBLIC LAND, PUBLIC TREES, PUBLIC RIGHTS don’t they understand? They take the public resources so they can make their private profits? Bull$#!T. Privatize the profits, but socialize the losses (in this case, the public resources, land, trees, quality of life, etc).



February 24th, 2011
11:26 am

Trees, clean air and water and a beautiful state add many more jobs than tacky billboards.


February 24th, 2011
11:32 am

It should be required that all billboard verbiage be in Dutch and that the signs are turned inward. They should also spin in the wind and be connected to turbines, thus generating electricity to light the highways during daylight hours. Remember to turn your rain-flashers on when driving in sunny conditions. A point to ponder: If roads were paved with trash, would litter be eliminated?


February 24th, 2011
11:36 am

This same proposal seems to be introduced every few years and has, thankfully, been routinely defeated. Looks like the billboard proponents have crafted their argument using the bad economy as a hook this time. So let me get this straight: the taxpayers pay taxes which GDOT then uses to beautify the roadways by planting trees and maintaining the right-of-ways. These tasks alone represent thousands of jobs, not to mention income generated for the the tree growers for supplying trees, trucking companies for delivery, equipment operators for installation, etc. Now we are asked to give the billboard companies preferential permission to come back and cut the same trees down so they can disfigure our roadways while creating only a handful of jobs? And all of this for what? So that passing motorists will be appropriately advised of yet another discount motel ahead, which, incidentally, has it’s own gigantic sign out front?

pro bidniz

February 24th, 2011
11:37 am

I think our legislature should change our official nickname from the ‘Peach State’ to
the ‘Billboard State”. We may be last in a lot of things but we are number one in roadside advertising!


February 24th, 2011
11:40 am

Without billboards, how would we know where to exit? All those asian spas and so little time. Have you no compassion for the Pecan Log?


February 24th, 2011
11:45 am

No way trees should get cut down for billboards! Period!


February 24th, 2011
11:47 am

And one last thing. How would one know they were approaching the state line heading either north or west without the WORLD’S CHEAPEST FIREWORKS billboards.

Come on people, think for a change.


February 24th, 2011
11:47 am

Another reason to get rid of billboards entirely