Originally created 02/09/00

Farmer promises lawsuit



GREENSBORO, Ga. -- A Greene County farmer upset about proposed zoning changes has notified the county he intends to sue over the removal of a protest sign he erected that evoked the name and image of Adolf Hitler.

Last month, officials in the rural county impounded a sign belonging to dairy farmer L.G. "Rooster" Boswell that featured a picture of the German dictator and read, "Welcome to Greene County, Courthouse dictator Gen. Bramlett & Cronies, 1.3 Miles Ahead."

"They really don't understand how serious an offense it is to trample on First Amendment rights," said Mr. Boswell's attorney, Samuel Atkins, who said he believes the sign was removed because an official with Ritz-Carlton was visiting the county between Augusta and Atlanta.

Officials, including County Commission Chairman Tim Bramlett, who is a retired Army general, are courting the hotel chain for a multimillion-dollar resort on Lake Oconee. And the commission is considering updating its zoning laws, which have gone untouched since 1983.

Since then, the area has become a haven for development of larger, expensive homes in gated communities.

Residents are accusing officials of trying to push generations of country clutter such as old trucks and car parts out of sight of wealthier residents and potential developers.

"They want to make it look exactly like Hilton Head," said Mr. Boswell, whose $500 sign had been posted on Georgia Highway 44, a main route. "They don't want to see any poverty, period."

But Mr. Bramlett said the sign brought complaints, especially from the Jewish community, and it violated local ordinances prohibiting posting of political messages along highways. County Attorney David Moss was unavailable for comment this week.

Last month, about 1,000 residents published a signed petition in the Greensboro Herald-Journal asking for a delay in consideration of zoning changes. Greene County's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has joined Mr. Boswell in protesting the proposed zoning as too broad and burdensome on the poor.

"The goal is really to stop the zoning ordinance," Mr. Atkins said. "The worst part of it is the sign ordinance. ... You have to apply for a permit if you want to put up a political sign."