Controversial funeral home signs may be forced down

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Two weeks ago, WTOC first told you about controversy over funeral home advertising in a Savannah cemetery.

A few things have changed. One billboard is gone, but there are more.

The City of Savannah received a few dozen complaints about signs advertising Bonaventure Funeral Home at Forest Lawn Cemetery. The cemetery shares an entrance with the city owned Bonaventure Cemetery and Greenwich Cemetery.

Both the funeral home and Forest Lawn are owned by the same family. People with loved ones at Forest Lawn complained about the signs, particularly a trailer with a billboard sign just behind the Forest Lawn entrance.

Two weeks ago, signs for Bonaventure Funeral Home lined the road to the cemetery, with the billboard trailer just behind the Forest Lawn sign. Tuesday afternoon, the trailer and billboard  are gone, moved behind a nearby structure.

Owner Kyle Nikola, Bonaventure Funeral Home, says the family decided to move it after speaking with a number of families with loved ones buried there. However, the signs, all along the road to the cemetery and at the main entrance, will remain.

However, here's the twist. The city now says the road is city property, and they want the signs gone.

"We do want the signs down. Again, we will give them the opportunity to dispute our claim, but we are very confident in the city's ownership, so we would like the signs gone," Joe Shearouse, City of Savannah, told WTOC.

Again, the Bonaventure Funeral Home has moved the trailer, which irked quite a few people. Some, still not quite happy it is even on the property at all.

Nikola told WTOC two weeks ago, the signs are a way of building business for the funeral home, which is being used to help support and maintain Forest Lawn Cemetery. He says after meeting with many peolpe, most understood the family's decision to put the signs up.

Nikola says the city's claim is news to him, and the Nikola family has always believed the property and road was theirs, and just allowed the city to use it as a right of way once they purchased the cemetery in 2004. He plans on meeting with the city this week, but was out of town Tuesday.

Joe Shearouse says the complaints prompted them to investigate and research shows the city has owned the road and property along it since 1966.

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