Petition seeks to revoke permit for ‘abuse of discretion’ and enforce respect for freed-slave cemetery
Two Johns Creek community organizations and an impacted resident today filed a petition of appeal with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) challenging its August 2016 approval allowing a digital billboard now operated by Clear Channel Outdoor within 500 feet of the Macedonia African Methodist Church Cemetery on Medlock Bridge Road in Johns Creek, Georgia, in violation of state law.
GDOT must approve all billboard locations on state roads. The Action Outdoor Advertising application in question, for 9780 Medlock Bridge Road, was first denied by GDOT in July 2016 for being within 500 feet of the cemetery. The Georgia Outdoor Advertising Control Act, O.C.G.A. § 32-6-70 et seq., states: “No sign shall be erected or maintained which is within 500 feet in any direction of a public park, public playground, public recreation area, public forest, scenic area, or cemetery.”
However, Action Outdoor appealed the denial and “GDOT subsequently issued the Permit without identifying any basis for the change in position. After the Permit was issued, GDOT undertook an investigation of the location of the proposed billboard site with respect to the Macedonia AMC Cemetery. GDOT later determined that the cemetery occupies only a portion of the two-acre premises notwithstanding that Fulton County had long before designated the entire two-acre parcel as a historic cemetery. This determination was in error and an abuse of discretion on the part of GDOT,” according to the request for hearing filed with GDOT today.
“This billboard disrespects the living and the dead,” said John Bradberry, founder of Preserve Johns Creek Inc., one of the groups seeking to ensure the cemetery is afforded all the respect and protection it deserves. The cemetery is located near the intersection of State Bridge and Medlock Bridge roads.
The Macedonia African Methodist Church Cemetery is the final resting place of April Waters, born into slavery in 1853 and freed under the Emancipation Proclamation; she died in 1938, according to records. She and scores of others are buried in the cemetery in marked and unmarked graves.
“I and many others worked very hard to get Fulton County to recognize and preserve the Macedonia African Methodist Cemetery nearly 20 years ago,” said Kirk Sarkisian, a member of the Warsaw Historic Preservation Society, the other petitioning group. “GDOT does not have the authority to redefine the boundaries of this important historic cemetery.”
The other petitioner is Edward Thompson, an impacted Johns Creek resident for whom “light from the improperly permitted sign enters his residence, creating a nuisance,” according to the filing.
Today’s filing seeks an administrative hearing to pursue having the GDOT permit for the cemetery billboard revoked.-
Contact: Tammy Murphy