Groups take aim at ‘double-decker’ billboard height proposal

STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY

The allowed height for billboards such as the ones along Texas 71 and U.S. 281 could double if state officials approve a request by outdoor advertisers, which has prompted opponents to mobilize an effort to reject the idea. File photo

The allowed height for billboards such as the ones along Texas 71 and U.S. 281 could double if state officials approve a request by outdoor advertisers, which has prompted opponents to mobilize an effort to reject the idea. File photo

AUSTIN — A recommendation to double the allowed height of billboards visible from state and federal highways has prompted opponents to mobilize against the potential measure.

A proposal expected to be addressed by the Texas Department of Transportation would increase the current height allowance of 42.5 feet to 85 feet, or about the height of an eight- to 10-story building.

“That means it would allow those double-decker billboards,” said Terry “Tex” Toler, a board member for the Hill Country chapter of the Dark Night Skies Reserve committee. “It’s the outdoor advertising lobby, which is very powerful.”

Toler recently shared an “action alert” on his social media page from a group called Scenic Texas, which is fighting an effort by outdoor advertising lobbyists asking TxDOT to ease the limits on outdoor billboards.

“Private property owners are the ones who sell the lease to the billboard company,” Toler said. “They get paid monthly for those billboards, but at the expense of everyone else.

“It’s not only light pollution, but it’s scenic view pollution,” Toler added.

Toler’s concerns primarily solicited support; however, one social media commenter thought the advertisers should have some leeway.

“It’s information/communication,” wrote Ken Moyer concerning billboard detractors. “May not be pretty, but businesses should be able to advertise their location and products.”

Questions offered by DailyTrib.com to the TxDOT public information office are under consideration, and a response is pending.

Toler has worked the past several years to not only preserve scenic views in the Hill Country but also the history and character of small-town Llano, where he works.

As the Llano Main Street tourism coordinator, Toler campaigned in 2015 for ordinances to minimize light intrusion in night skies.

As a result, Llano joined Fredericksburg and Mason to pass so-called “dark night skies” ordinances regulating lighting.

Taking up the billboard issue seemed to be a natural progression of his efforts, he explained.

“You cannot avoid seeing billboards that obliterate the countryside, the sunset, or the dark skies,” he said. “It’s light trespass. Not only are the lights directed upward into the sky, which prevents the viewing of the stars at night, it’s also distracting and is a blight on the horizon.”

Toler also believes efforts to ease rules about billboards fail to adhere to the 1972 Scenic Highway Act, spearheaded by former first lady Lady Bird Johnson, who worked to preserve natural beauty along Texas highways.

“If she were here today, she would be disgusted by what’s happening,” he said.

Toler said he would like to see the state of Texas go a step further and limit such advertising.

“There are several states who have outlawed billboards,” he said. “We have these beautiful vistas, and it’s being ruined by these gigantic rectangles in the sky lit up at night.”

To find out more about efforts regarding billboard regulation, go to scenictexas.org.

connie@thepicayune.com

10 Responses to “Groups take aim at ‘double-decker’ billboard height proposal”

  1. Marilyn Martin says:

    I wrote to Tex Dot the last time this was under consideration. Ultimately, they did not change the regulation. It will likely take citizen resistance to kill it again this time. What a shame it would be to have the our lovely state cluttered with tacky advertising boards! I support local businesses, and I search for them on social media. We can protect our Texas businesses and our lovely roadsides and night skies at the same time – one should not be sacrificed for the other.

  2. Charles Watkins says:

    Also a safety issue — eyes drawn to a billboard may miss something on the road.

  3. Aussery says:

    Where is Lady Bird?😢

  4. Davis says:

    I am in complete agreement; we must stop further damage to our night sky. This also affects property values and quality of life for those of us who have lived in the hill country for years and now are staring at huge lit signs.

    Included in this topic should also be any businesses with scrolling digital signs or spotlights. As Charles mentions, they are a dangerous distraction while driving.

    I am glad to hear Mr. Tolar is willing to spearhead this effort, but how can he reconcile the fact that Llano is one of the greatest current offenders? Every time I drive hwy71 and see the giant billboards advertising the Llano Crawfish event and Llano businesses such as feed or hardware stores, I am furious that the city of Llano is cluttering the road to Spicewood, 45 miles east of them. Clutter your own roads!

  5. Janis koby says:

    We live in a beautiful area – why mess it up – when no one will want what is advertised anyway.

  6. Toni G King says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the above statements. Are we not bombarded enough with with unsolicited advertisement in our homes, phones, TV. etc. Relief from that comes in the form of a “roadtrip” through our beautiful hill country. DO NOT PUT A BLIGHT ON OUR COUNTRYSIDE ! I for one would never support an in my face business…

  7. Les Fenter says:

    Yes, we need to unite against this frivolous use of our highway scenic beauty. These signs ARE frivolous because advertisers have many other outlets, including radio, TV, newspapers and pamphlets.
    I will write my State Representative and State Senator. Will you do same???

    Here’s a link. You enter your address and get their names and contact information. Emails are easy. Written letter may be more effective. But caring enough to call really helps. OR do all three and ask a neighbor to do the same.

    http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx

  8. Monique says:

    It is NOT any0one’s business if a PRIVATE PROPERTY owner wants to lease the land for a sign. The lousy excuse for the driving, that is a bad driver nothing more. Advertising brings in revenue and I would bet most of you are not millionaires. There is a LARGE BILLBOARD on 281 south of Blanco advertising Marble Falls. I wish some of you weirdo’s would leave.

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