"See Rock City" barn leads to dispute

6:47 PM, Apr 5, 2013   |    comments
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CUMMING, Ga. -- A "See Rock City" sign, so popular across the south at one time, has produced a standoff between a barn owner and Forsyth County.

Two years ago, Ben Morris purchased a 1930's era barn, farmhouse and produce stand. Morris says in the process of restoring the historic buildings, a handyman discovered faded letters beneath dirt and rust on the roof of the barn.

One fresh coat of paint later, Morris has been hit with a citation that threatens fines and even the possibility of jail time.

"I'm prepared to go to jail," Morris said. "I'm prepared to lead rallies. I'm prepared to bring all the townspeople with pitchforks and signs."

For decades, barns across the south pleaded with tourists to See Rock City. In the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, the popular spot on the Georgia-Tennessee border offered compensation to farmers that allowed the ads painted on their barns.

The ads have slowly faded over the years.

Morris says he was simply preserving history when he restored the "See Rock City" plea to the roof of his barn. A code enforcement officer told him he'd violated the county's ten year old ordinance prohibiting roof signs.

The County's Director of Planning and Development viewed 5-year-old aerial photos of the barn taken before the restoration job. When Tom Brown didn't See Rock City, he declared Morris' paint job a new sign, and a violation.

Morris obtained an email from a code enforcement officer that stated "the 'See Rock City' sign existed before roof signs were prohibited the county in 1996," and should be exempt from the ordinance.

Even the county commission chairman Pete Amos seems to remember the Rock City sign on Morris' barn years ago. He has employees looking for tangible proof.

As a citizen of the county I don't think it (the sign) is a big deal," said Amos. "I don't think it's harmful. As a county commissioner we are set by rules and procedures."

Morris says he will not paint over the sign. He has a court date later this month.

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