As many as 17 billboards could be installed in Sandy Springs, most of them along Roswell Road, following a recent Georgia Supreme Court decision, city officials say.

“Obviously, we’re very distraught about this,” Mayor Eva Galambos said. “It’s obviously not a good thing for Sandy Springs.”

City officials worry the billboards could hamper efforts to revitalize Sandy Springs’ “downtown” area along Roswell Road. City officials and property owners, organized as the Main Street Alliance, have been discussing ways to revive the area.

Sandy Springs was among four cities where billboards will be permitted by the high court’s ruling. The ruling also covers billboards in Milton, Johns Creek and an area of Alpharetta. The lawsuit, dealing with events that took place before Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Milton were created, involved the Fulton County sign control law.

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court ruled the sign companies had a right to erect the billboards because the Fulton law had been struck down, so no valid sign regulation existed at the time the companies sought to erect the billboards.

Sandy Springs City Attorney Wendell Willard said he thought it unlikely the cities would try to appeal the ruling. “I’ve talked to the lawyers handling the litigation for us as well as the other parties and they’re not optimistic,” Willard said.

Willard and Galambos said their main concern was how billboards might alter the feel of the Roswell Road corridor. “The concern I feel is how this will impact the ability to develop that area,” Willard said. “We’re looking for a unique shopping area.”

Galambos said city officials are hopeful about possible solutions, but said she was “not at liberty” to discuss any proposals. She said city officials were trying to work with property owners in the area to control billboards.

“You can’t put a billboard up without the consent of the property owner,” she said. “The property owners are telling us they want to improve downtown. We’re trying to work with the property owners. I’m hoping this is one area where we can work [together].”

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.