Could Rule Change Allow Nine-story High Billboards to Pop Up Along Texas' Rural Roads?

The saying goes "Everything is bigger in Texas." But that hasn't been the case when it comes to billboards.For decades, Texas has capped the height of outdoor ads at 42 1/2 feet. Now, a proposed rule from the Texas Department of Transportation could double the maximum height of billboards to 85 feet. That would be nearly as tall as a nine-story building.Scenic Texas, an advocacy group with chapters around the state, warns that taller signs could sprout up all over the state and become eyesores for travelers, especially in the Hill Country and other parts of the Lone Star State with panoramic vistas.It says Texas' many rural areas are especially at risk. Cities can restrict outdoor signage, but counties cannot. That when the state's standard kicks in."As everybody knows beauty sells and ugly does not," said Margaret Lloyd, vice president of the board of directors for Scenic Texas. "So everything we do not only protects the beauty of our state, but also its economic vitality."Why the change?The state agency says the rule ends questions about billboards that violated the prior height rules that had been in place for more than three decades. It would grandfather in billboard heights, as they were on March 1, 2017. That means that billboards that were 62 feet high on the day could not shoot up to 85 feet, spokesman Mark Cross said. He said Texas Department of Transportation plans to finalize and adopt the new rules in November or December. Billboard companies, however, say the rule change doesn't go far enough. They say Texas is out of step with states that have no height restrictions at all and could open itself up to legal challenges. More than half of states do not restrict the size of billboards.Eric Wetzel, a spokesman for Austin-based billboard company Reagan Outdoor Advertising, said the state continues to over-regulate the billboard industry, and the new rule would effectively create a two-tiered system."What the agency would be doing potentially is picking winners and losers among advertisers," he said. "That could introduce constitutional problems."  Continue reading...

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