Friday, September 13, 2013

Illegal commercial bus shelters need to be removed in Dunwoody !!!

Visual pollution needs to go.

The illuminated bus shelter above was installed in April 2012 after our sign ordinance was put into place in July 2011, whereby it replaced a plain green shelter that had no illumination and drab advertising.  It appears that no sign nor electrical permits were pulled to change the bus structure and the City of Dunwoody has no contract in place saying that we allow these fixtures in our city.   It is my opinion that once these 12 commercial structures were upgraded throughout the city without our approval that they are now in blatant violation of city codes; therefore should all be removed as allowed by our sign ordinance.

At our June 10th City Council meeting the City presented us with the revenue sharing agreement / contract that I successfully argued that we should not be signing for numerous reasons.   Watch the video of meeting starting 53:30 to 1:19:00 on my site or view the city video and there is also a recap of the meeting from Dunwoody Talk if you want to read about his impressions from watching the meeting.

After being told by legal staff that we had to sign the contract for various reasons, I disagreed and argued that we should not sign the document as we had valid grounds for removal of the signs.  I informed the Council that I notified the City of the illegal structure installations in our right of way in April of 2012 and that it was my opinion that these signs should now be removed as allowed in our code.  They are in violation of building codes as well as the newest sign ordinance and therefore are not allowed.  

I stated that these structures were installed not at locations where shelter is needed by those who ride Marta, but instead are installed where the most eyeballs of a targeted demographic can be shown the sign.  (How many people exit Brook Run Park in the morning to use the shelter above to ride to Chamblee?  vs  How many people exit the Broadstone Apartments down the street near 285 in the morning to ride to Chamblee where there is no shelter available?   This Brook Run location is on a curve where you are forced to see the sign and it has the demographic positives that every middle school parent (and the kids in the passenger seat) must pass this sign five days a week for nine months every year.)

I reminded the City Council that we have pending litigation regarding illegal billboards that were erected high over our heads, aimed at the travelers on 285. So if we approved the proposed bus shelter agreement for an estimated $30,000 per year for advertising pointed directly at our residents; that we would be hypocrites selling our city short.

Signing a ten year year deal would have locked us into this revenue source for that time and allowed the sign company to place signs like shown above.  Then about ten years from now, a completely different city council with no history of the subject might reapprove the item to keep the status quo and to lock in the funding source for an extended time.    The contract item presented in June was deferred pending the same legal research that I have been waiting for since April of 2012 and though I am a patient man the content and the specific target of the sign based on its location outside our biggest city park and only middle school has forced me to bring this item to a wider public light. 

I want this visual pollution gone and I want to follow the lead of other cities like Roswell who actually offer amenities to the residents where they are needed with no advertising attached.

I prefer charm over cash as once you lose the one, you would have a hard time buying it back even if you had plenty of the other.    Thoughts?


DunwoodyTalk said...

I agree, John. If this were a Dunwoody business hanging illegal banners and putting up signs without permits they'd be removed and the business fined.

KWeaver said...

I agree as well, John! These shelters are not visually appealing in any way. By allowing these kind of structures it detracts from the upscale feel of our community. I don't disagree that bus stop shelters around town are nice to have, however, they should be built in accordance with the look and feel of the city. These look like something you would see in urban, downtown areas, not rural, upscale communities. I applaud your stand on this and hope that the rest of the council will agree with you.

Ken Thompson said...

I fundamentally agree but not without some reservations. I'll leave aside my visceral reaction that Dunwoody will do many things we should not for a quick buck.

First, if you are forced--in other words "co-erced" to sign a contract then you're a pre-law student away from "no binding contract exists".

Second, we live in a suburban, but near urban area and alternative transportation beyond sidewalks and bikes needs to be a part of our lives. But to your point these are not about facilitating and improving transportation in Dunwoody but are shameless and perhaps illegal advertising platforms. While I don't think they are ugly at all (not a personal fan of the williamsburg brick front beige siding Dunwoody Four Four and a Door) I think they are horribly inappropriate for most parts of Dunwoody.

What I would like to see Dunwoody do is negotiate an agreement with MARTA establishing locations for stops and shelters based on traffic and transportation engineering data and our Master Plan for areas in the City. Then Dunwoody should commit to the design, installation, operation and maintenance of these structures. Our City, our right of way, our control, our responsibility.

If CoD wants to negotiation billboard revenue opportunities that's fine. If there's a grant that's fine. Otherwise just do the right thing and do that thing right.

Brian Morton said...

As much as I like GTA and other video games, I really have to agree with you John. If this ad were shown to me on Facebook or some other website I wouldn't think twice about it since I play video games, but this is on a main thoroughfare and in view of a park with a children's playground (and not a very family-friendly ad).

It's in the City, it's a public advertisement. There's an ordinance against that. I fail to see the complication here.

I'm also curious, if you're permitted to share, what was the reason given for why you "had" to sign the revenue sharing agreement?

Keep up the good fight!

Blessed and Cursed and Won said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. That horrendous advertisement is next to one park, no fewer than three churches, two schools, and one large neighborhood with children. Every time I drive by it (which is often, since we're in Dunwoody North), I cringe at the message it sends to our impressionable kids.

Kerry said...

John - I fully agree with your position. It's just more "pollution" thrust upon our citizens and visitors.

Steve Barton said...

Against the advertising in the way it has come about and is executed. That shelter has had a series of ads for adult items,lotsa booze...Like Ken Thompson I think the actual shelters are not bad looking. Need the same shelters where riders are actually waiting for the bus.

Bob Turner said...

"At the end of the day, I can end up just totally wacky, because I've made mountains out of molehills. With meditation, I can keep them as molehills."

- Ringo Starr

Come on now, who really gives a rat's ass!

The real visual pollution in this town that is most noxious to the children is having to experience the hypocrisy of their parents who taught them that hurricane Katrina was an apt lesson for the African-American children of New Orleans that if they stay in their inept schools and studied hard then they too could afford an SUV and drive away from the storm instead of holing up in the Super Dome.

Brian Hammock said...

Wow. And I thought Decatur was bad. Trust me, I do not like this ploy however; sometimes this is the only way these stops are improved - by advertising dollars. Do you think Bankrupt marta coughed up the money for this. Next time, get out of your Benz during a rainstorm and wait for a bus. Then come and report back to me.

I am not a lawyer in any way but, I am quit aware of dealing with public service, local government, transportation & private development for 20+ year. I'd bet 10-1 that somewhere down the paperwork line in agreement with MARTA and their routes, they can pretty much dang near do what they please. Typically the most local (city)codes/enforcement are the ones that are followed. That doesn't mean that the county, state, Fed has no say....

Elizabeth said...

I don't really understand the part of your post that deals with the delay in the legal research... who are you waiting on? Dunwoody's lawyers? If so, I'm not sure I understand why... if they aren't doing as the city council has asked them to do, they should be fired and replaced with a firm that will. If, however, the rest of the city council doesn't care about this issue and isn't asking for the research and this is just coming from you, then I think what you should be saying on your blog is that you want residents who DO care about this issue to contact the OTHER city council members and mayor and share their thoughts with them about why this issue should be researched and acted upon.

John Heneghan said...

I would like to thank everyone who commented on this as your feedback is much appreciated.

I have sent a message to Council and City Staff requesting that this be discussed at the next regularly scheduled meeting (Sept 23rd) and I am expecting that the legal research will finally be conducted by then so the City can take next steps.

John Heneghan said...

Comment from MARTA...

“Bus shelter advertising is an important source of revenue that enables MARTA to continue providing quality transit services to the Atlanta region,” Lyle Harris, MARTA spokesman said.

“In addition to contributing to MARTA’s bottom line, these revenues are shared with the municipalities where the bus shelters are located. As always, MARTA respects the wishes of the communities we serve and will adhere to any and all local ordinances that may apply.

Dunwoody City Council seeks agreement for MARTA bus shelters - Dunwoody Neighbor Newspaper