The State of Texas has drawn a line in the sky that limits the height of billboards along our highways. Unfortunately, many billboard owners regularly ignore it.
A number of the billboards that are subject to state regulation exceed the current height limit of 42.5 feet, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Ignorance is no defense since the permit application for every billboard requires the owner to certify it will comply with the height limit and other provisions.
This issue emerged in the waning days of the 2017 legislative session as part of Senate Bill 312, the must-pass legislation to allow TxDOT to continue to operate.
As two of the Senate negotiators for SB 312, we pushed back against a hastily considered House amendment that would have allowed billboards to go up to 85 feet — double the current limit. Unable to pass a bill to increase the height limit, billboard proponents had added language to SB 312 that hadn’t been considered in a public hearing.
We weren’t willing to take that drastic step, but we struck a compromise that grandfathered existing billboards in order to dispense with a lot of costly litigation.
This deal provided relief to the industry and the state while also respecting the legislative process.
But the industry now wants more and is working hard to circumvent the Legislature to get it. Rather than committing to following the rules going forward, billboard owners are trying to repeal the height limit altogether through TxDOT’s rule-making process.
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