From Outdoor Outlook, January 7, 2002 (The Outdoor Advertising Association of America).
The Georgia Supreme Court has issued an opinion upholding the constitutionality of Georgia’s vegetation control law. The Georgia statute permits the trimming of trees and other vegetation growing on state highway rights-of-way that obscure outdoor advertising signs. In the decision in Garden Club of Georgia v. Shackelford, the court held that the Georgia Legislature properly predicated the statute on a finding that it is in the public interest for outdoor advertising signs to be visible in order to provide information to the general public. The Court found that the Georgia statute, which is regarded as a model state law, did not provide an unconstitutional gratuity and was based on a valid statutory scheme because the law imposes a fee on the owner of the sign that benefits from the vegetation control activity.
While affirming the validity of the state law, the decision did invalidate the specific fee imposed by the Georgia DOT regulation implementing the law, which was based on the timber value of a tree that is removed, rather than its value as a “living resource”. In the case before the Court, the timber valuation would have been $22, as compared with a resource valuation of $536.