News

Scenic Texas strives to keep its stakeholders informed on scenic issues.  Check here for up-to-date news happening both locally and worldwide.

URGENT — Scenic Texas Action Alert!!

Dear Scenic Texas Friends:

URGENT PROBLEM: Every billboard along a federal highway in Texas is scheduled to double in height to 85 feet under TxDOT’s proposed rules.. UNLESS there is an overwhelming show of public support to keep billboards at their current height of 42.5 feet. And the TxDoT Commissioners are being flooded with billboard industry letters asking that they be allowed to raise their billboards to unlimited heights!!!  Even if you have written before, we need you to write again—in fact, we need each person receiving this alert to write within the next 10 days so every opinion will be counted as part of the official public record. This is our LAST and ONLY opportunity to possibly stop this outrage….no second chances!

 SOLUTION, TAKE ACTION! Click here to send a letter that will be submitted as your official public comment. TxDOT will compile all comments and consider them before adopting its final rules. MOST IMPORTANT—please share this alert with all your personal networks, including social media. We need numbers, and this is our ONLY chance to officially weigh in!  This outrageous height increase will serve no public purpose, create new driver distractions, and benefit the billboard industry only—an industry TxDOT is mandated to regulate, not accommodate.

TIMING:  While we ask for you to submit your comments within 10 days, the final deadline is 5 pm, October 16th. Or you may give comments in person at the Public Hearing in Austin at 9 am, Tuesday, September 26, 125 East 11th Street, Ric Williamson Hearing Room. 

Thank you for speaking up!

Margaret Lloyd, Vice President

 

P.S.  To see the proposed rules, go to  http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot/get-involved/row/092617/092617-minute-order.pdf   Height is Rule 21.189. Subsection (a)—it states that a commercial sign (billboard) may not be erected that is taller than 42.5 feet. So (a) applies to the erection of new billboards only—this means that ALL existing billboards would be allowed to be raised as tall as 85 feet, as shown in subparagraph (g).  According to TxDOT, this new rule would apply to about 15,000-20,000 existing billboards.

 

13 Texas Cities Earn Prominent Scenic City Certification in 2017

HOUSTON – August 8, 2017 – Today, 13 Texas municipalities have been awarded Scenic City Certification through the Scenic City Certification Program, a project of Scenic Texas. The Scenic City program supports and recognizes cities for commitment to high-quality scenic standards for public roadways and public spaces.  Five cities are now certified for the first time, and eight are re-certifying or upgrading existing certification status, bringing the total number of certified cities in Texas to 71.

The Scenic City Certification Program is the first in the United States to incorporate a comprehensive set of model standards for design and development of public roadways and public spaces into one program. Cities apply to the program for a rigorous evaluation and scoring of existing municipal standards against the model.  Those with the highest evaluation scores earn certification.

“Through the Scenic City Certification Program, cities access a valuable diagnostic tool,” said Anne Culver, executive vice president of Scenic Texas. “The detailed 360° analysis of existing infrastructure standards supplies cities with a roadmap for future growth and development. We are pleased so many municipalities participated this year, earning either first-time certification or re-certification.”

Cities earning first-time certification or recertification in 2017 include:

Bedford*

Bulverde*

Cedar Park

Colleyville

Cuero

Horseshoe Bay

Houston

Lancaster*

Leon Valley*

Lucas*

Plano

Richardson

Southlake

*Cities earning first-time certification

 

A reception to present these 13 municipalities with their Scenic City Certification will be held on October 5, 2017 in Houston, during the Texas Municipal League’s Annual Conference Week.

 

The Scenic City application process for the 2018 round of Scenic City evaluations opens January 1, 2018. Any incorporated Texas municipality may view the Program standards and application process by visiting www.sceniccitycertification.org.

 

Joining Scenic Texas as partners in the Scenic City Certification Program are the Texas Municipal League, Urban Land Institute – Austin, Urban Land Institute – Houston, Urban Land Institute – San Antonio, American Planning Association Texas, Houston-Galveston Area Council, American Council of Engineering Companies Houston, Keep Texas Beautiful, Texas Downtown Association, Texas Economic Development Council, Texas Historical Commission, North Central Texas Council of Governments, Scenic Houston and Scenic America.

 

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Scenic Texas is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the visual character of Texas. We promote enhanced design standards for public projects, sign regulation, freeway landscaping and scenic byway development. Visit www.scenictexas.org.

 

TEXAS CERTIFIED SCENIC CITIES

 

PLATINUM

Cedar Park
Fairview
Flower Mound
Frisco
McKinney
Missouri City
Richland Hills
Plano
Richardson
Roanoke
Rockwall
Southlake

 

GOLD

Bee Cave
Belton
Benbrook
Buda
Cedar Hill
Cibolo
Cuero
Denton
Dripping Springs
Fort Worth
Georgetown
Heath
Horseshoe Bay
Hutto
Keller
Lakeway
Lancaster
Mansfield
Mesquite
Pearland
Pflugerville
Sealy
South Padre Island
Sugar Land
Westlake

 

SILVER

Bulverde
College Station
Colleyville
El Campo
Granbury
Grapevine
Houston
Irving
McAllen
Nolanville
Waxahachie
West University Place

BRONZE

Bastrop
Beaumont
Bedford
Corinth
Friendswood
La Vernia
Leon Valley
Marble Falls
Nassau Bay
Richmond
Webster

RECOGNIZED

Double Oak
Kennedale
Lucas
Magnolia
Pilot Point
Pharr
Prosper
Seabrook
Shavano
Park Taylor
West Lake Hills

Scenic Day in Austin – March 21st

We hope you will join us for a scenic gathering in Austin on March 21. In addition to learning about various scenic programs, pending legislation, and Scenic Austin activities, you will get to meet like-minded folks from the rest of the State. These face-to-face gatherings always help to inspire and invigorate us to continue our quest for a more beautiful Texas.

Tuesday, March 21st
11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. –  Coordinated meetings at Capitol, City Hall and Editorial Boards

3:00 – 4:30 p.m. – Scenic Texas Board and member meeting

4:30 – 6:30 p.m. – Social Gathering (complimentary valet)

Scenic Texas Board meeting and Social Gathering:
Café Blue | 340 E 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

*For those that wish to continue your conversations at Café Blue, dinner reservations can be made directly with the restaurant.  Please contact Café Blue at 512-428-5796 or visit their website at http://cafebluetx.com.  (Scenic Texas will not cover the costs of dinner).

Thank you to our generous event sponsors:

Bojorquez Law Firm | Land Use Solutions, LLC
Margaret Lloyd | TBG Partners

For questions, please contact Margaret Lloyd at 713-898-2819 or Girard Kinney at 512-472-5572.
To RSVP,  please contact Blanca Ortega at 713-533-9149.

Appeals Court Guts the Texas Highway Beautification Act

On August 26th, the Austin Court of Appeals issued an opinion declaring that key sections of the Texas Highway Beautification Act (TxHBA) are unconstitutional.  As a result, TxDOT’s authority to regulate billboards is eliminated.  This decision (Auspro Enterprises v. Texas Department of Transportation) finds that the bulk of the TxHBA is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment free speech clause under a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion in the case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert.

Neither the Reed nor Auspro case was about off-premise billboards (Reed was about small temporary signs and Auspro involves a “Ron Paul for President” political sign).  Nevertheless, the Court wiped out the entire TxDOT billboard licensing and permitting scheme.  The Court’s remedy was very broad — it could have simply focused only on the provision regarding political signs on private property, all that was at issue in Auspro.

The State and Scenic Texas agree that TxDOT may not regulate non-commercial political speech on private property. Our position is that the Court should modify its remedy so that the primary purpose of the TxHBA — licensing and permitting of outdoor commercial advertising signs — remains in place.

What’s at stake if the Auspro decision stands

  • The state of Texas loses all authority to regulate billboards anywhere on the federal highway system.
  • The State could lose 10% of its federal highway funding for failing to meet a federal mandate to “effectively control outdoor advertising.”
  • The sole enforcement mechanism remaining would be in those Texas cities that have adopted municipal sign codes. Texas counties have no sign regulatory authority.
  • Unregulated, un-permitted, commercial advertising billboards, of any number, size or height, will spring up along highways across the state.

Action plan

  • On September 27th, the Texas Attorney General will ask the Court to grant a Motion for Rehearing to reconsider the remedy in this case. – DONE   READ THE FULL MOTION
  • Scenic Texas will file an amicus curaie brief, authored by former Texas Supreme Court Justice Scott Brister, to support the AG’s motion. – DONE   READ THE FULL AMICUS BRIEF

UPDATE

  • On December 8, 2016 the court denied the State’s Motion for Rehearing, withdrew its August 26th Auspro opinion and judgment and entered a substituted opinion and judgment.
  • Texas Attorney General has stated this ruling will be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.
  • With the Texas Legislature in session, Scenic Texas will support legislation to resolve any constitutional problems in the Texas Highway Beautiful Act.

 

LIST OF AMICUS PARTNERS

AIA San Antonio

American Planning Association, Texas Chapter

City of Fort Worth

Gillespie County Economic Development Commission

Harris County

Hill Country Alliance

Houston NW Chamber of Commerce

San Antonio Conservation Society

Texas Association of Counties

Texas City Attorneys Association

Texas Conference of Urban Counties

Texas Economic Development Council

Texas Municipal League 

Town of Westover Hills 

AND

Scenic Texas, Inc. and its Chapters in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, the Hill Country, and Comal and Fayette Counties, and its affiliate, Scenic Galveston

 

Stories from around the state

Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle Editorial

Giddings Times & News

Round Rock Leader

 

Unexpected court ruling delivers setback to Texas Highway Beautification Act

Houston Chronicle – Opponents of billboards and other signs along Texas roadways reacted on Monday with dismay to an appeals court decision striking down significant portions of the Texas Highway Beautification Act, saying the ruling could lead to a litany of signs along federally funded highways.

Read full story

 

23 Texas Cities Earn Prominent Scenic City Certification in 2016

Cities recognized for excellence in scenic standards, total number of certified cities grows to 66

HOUSTON – Twenty-three Texas municipalities have been awarded Scenic City Certification through the Scenic City Certification Program, a project of Scenic Texas. The Scenic City program supports and recognizes cities for commitment to high-quality scenic standards for public roadways and public spaces. Nine cities are now certified for the first time, and 14 are re-certifying or upgrading existing certification status, bringing the total certified cities in Texas to 66.

Read full press release

New Studies Indicate Digital Billboards Compromise Driver Safety: New studies confirm the evidence 

A review of recent research on driver distraction near digital billboards finds increased evidence the bright, constantly changing digital billboards negatively impact traffic safety. The compendium highlights new studies proving digital billboards are attracting longer and more frequent glances from drivers than do static signs.

The compendium’s author, engineering psychologist Jerry Wachtel of the Veridian Group, said that while digital billboards may be succeeding in capturing driver attention and for that reason “they represent a growing threat to traffic safety, particularly along our busiest streets and highways.”

A 2015 study of eight digital billboard locations on highways in Florida and Alabama showed significantly higher crash rates, 25% in Florida and 29% in Alabama, at sites near the digital billboards than those further away. A disproportionate number were rear-end and sideswipe collisions, both typical of crashes caused by driver distraction.

“These studies are especially alarming given the rate at which digital billboards are going up around the country,” said Mary Tracy, president of Scenic America. “It is particularly concerning that our federal government became complicit in these growing threats to public health when they allowed these signs to start going up without first requiring a study to prove they do not endanger driver safety.”

In 2007 the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reversed a long-held position by giving the green light to digital billboards utilizing “flashing, blinking or intermittent lighting” along federal highways. With no safety analysis, FHWA declared that billboards changing as frequently as 20,000 times a day were not changing “intermittently” as long as they were static for 4 seconds.

This June, Texas Congressman Ted Poe,  along with three other Members of Congress,  urged USDOT/FHWA in a congressional letter to reconsider the decision to authorize digital billboards to operate along the federal highway system. The request was accompanied by the compendium of safety studies reported by the Veridian Group.

Scenic Austin rallies all who care about Austin to oppose digital billboards

In late 2015, the leading owner of outdoor advertising billboards in Austin asked the city to permit conversion of existing billboards across Austin into digital, changeable message boards that would switch advertisements as often as every eight seconds.  Currently, city ordinances prohibit such conversion.

In opposition to this billboard industry request, Scenic Austin,led by Scenic Texas executive committee member and Scenic Austin President Girard Kinney, is actively engaged in a public outreach and education program to urge Austin citizens, neighborhood associations and businesses to speak out against this conversion.  Scenic Austin is urging those who oppose digital billboards to share their stance with Austin City Council. Scenic Austin believes that 24 hour per day, changing, brightly lit billboards pose a significant driver distraction and would negatively affect quality of life for all who live and work in Austin, and all who visit.

A new Scenic Austin video clearly and pointedly describes the economic development and quality of life problems that digital billboards present.   The path that Austin City Council chooses to take on this issue is being watched closely across Texas.

Thanks in large part to Scenic Austin’s work empowering citizens to weigh on this important issue, City of Austin staff recently issued a memorandum to the Mayor and members of Austin City Council recommending that current Austin ordinance language not be changed.   This recommendation supports maintaining the status quo, and keeping Austin free of digital billboards. Austin City Council may take a vote on the matter this summer.

Contact Scenic Austin for more information on digital billboard safety issues and how to weigh in with Austin City Council to voice opposition to any measure that unleashes digital billboards across Austin.

20 Texas Cities Earn Scenic City Certification in 2015

Twenty (20) Texas municipalities have been awarded Scenic City Certification by the Scenic City Certification Program of Scenic Texas in 2015. Seven are certified for the first time, and 13 are re-certifying their status, bringing the total certified cities in Texas to 58. Read the full press release here.

Cities earning first-time certification or re-certification in 2015 include:

Bastrop
Belton
College Station
Cuero
Georgetown
Granbury
Grapevine
Horseshoe Bay
Irving
Magnolia
Missouri City
Nassau Bay
Pflugerville
Pilot Point
Prosper
Sealy
South Padre Island
Sugar Land
Westlake
West Lake Hills

Galveston Hosts Presentation on Secrets of Successful Cities

Ed McMahon, Senior Resident Fellow for the Urban Land Institute and former Scenic America President, spoke to Galveston elected officials and residents on Monday, May 11 about careful development.

Click here to view Ed’s presentation.

News articles:

http://www.galvnews.com/business/free/article_e77180a8-f9f2-11e4-8158-bb2e31546ae2.html

http://www.galvnews.com/opinion/editorials/free/article_7df96d08-f9f1-11e4-a48c-8bef1b486bcb.html

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