Keep Our Highways Safe and Scenic
As a constituent who cares, I am writing in opposition to SB 164 as currently written, legislation that expands billboard companies ability to cut down trees along Georgia rights of way.
I am concerned that the bill as currently written would:
-Eliminate a 5 year waiting period between the time a billboard is erected and when a billboard company can receive a permit to trim or remove trees. The waiting period has been part of law for more than a decade to help ensure no permits are issued for the purpose of creating new billboards.
-Erase the current valuation system where DOT permit fees are based upon the value of the vegetation being removed in front of a billboard in favor of a fee of $4500 minus the cost to the billboard company of purchasing, installing and maintaining replacement landscaping. This could result in less revenue for the Roadside Enhancement and Beautification Fund.
-Put trees planted as part of beautification projects at risk of being cut down to maximize billboard visibility if they were planted after January 1, 2009.
-Allow the removal of hardwood trees more than 8 inches in diameter and nonhardwood trees having a diameter of more than 12 inches.
-Phase in the expanded tree cutting provisions over three years rather than setting up a pilot program with a sunset date to allow for an analysis of its effectiveness.
If these problems are not fixed, I urge you to vote NO on SB 164. The state should not grant a "right to be seen" to billboards at the expense of trees, taxpayers and scenic beauty.
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