Houston’s highways are lined with billboards.
Currently, the Texas-sized are maxed out at 42.5 feet high, but, thanks to what activists are describing as confusing language, a new measure added to the Texas Department of Transportation’s sunset bill is causing concern the new max could be raised to 85-feet.
The last-minute addition shocked activists, who said they were told the bill would be free of this type of provision.
“The public never weighed in on this issue,” Margaret Lloyd said in an interview. “We were told by both the House and Senate sponsors that this would be a clean bill. We were not expecting this.”
Lloyd is the vice president of Scenic Texas, which fights for fewer signs along highways.
“It says any billboard before March 1, 2017, can be 85 feet,” Lloyd continued in the interview.
The provision was added as the bill moved from the Texas House to a conference committee, which resolved the differences between the House and Senate bills.
The allegedly hastily-added language potentially allowing the 85-foot signs made it into the final version of the bill, but lawmakers say activists do not need to worry.
According to Sen. Robert Nichols, R-East Texas, the provision is intended to permit signs already higher than 42.5-feet to remain standing, essentially “grandfathering” them in.
He clarified all new signs will be required to meet the 42.5-foot limit.
Because of the vague language, however, activists worry the signs built before March 1, 2017, will be increased in height and still be considered legal.
But officials still say activists can relax.
“Whatever height they were, that is what they get to be,” TxDOT official Gus Cannon said in an interview.
In addition to the higher rules, cities and municipalities can also regulate sign heights, setting local restrictions for their jurisdictions.