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

SCENIC TEXAS PRAISES TEXAS LEGISLATORS FOR SB 357 PASSAGE

Legislation Helps to Protect Public Space and Enhance Driver Safety

Scenic Texas, the state’s only non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of our state’s visual environment, particularly as seen by the traveling public, praises the 86th Texas Legislature for passing Senate Bill 357 (SB 357).

“We are grateful to those Texas Legislators who saw the importance of protecting our scenic highways and byways, the largest public space for Texans and tourists,” said Scenic Texas Board President Margaret Lloyd. “The passage of SB 357 is indicative of the Texas Legislature commitment to keep drivers less distracted and more safe, while preserving the natural beauty of Texas.”

On Friday, June 14 Governor Abbott signed SB 357 authored by Senator Robert Nichols (R, Jacksonville). The bill will establish a few new parameters, including statutorily limiting all new billboards erected adjacent to federal highways to 60 feet in height. If this Bill had not passed, TxDOT would have allowed all billboards to be 85 feet tall — or 25 feet taller than SB 357 will allow. Although Scenic Texas advocated for 42.5 feet, the organization is pleased that SB 357 passed with the following two provisions included:

  1. SB 357 will freeze all 20,000 existing billboards to the height they were as of March 1, 2017, or 85 feet, whichever is shorter. (According to TxDOT, approximately 98% of all 20,000 existing billboards were 60 feet or lower on March 1, 2017); and  

  2. SB 357 will allow TxDOT to stop any of the large billboard companies (those holding 100 or more sign permits) from obtaining a new billboard permit if any of their existing signs exceed the height limit. This is an important addition to TxDOT’s enforcement options. 

“We are grateful that the Texas Legislature recognized the balance between economic gains and protecting our natural resources,” said Scenic Texas Executive Director Sarah Tober. “As I recently drove through Florida on IH-10 it was amazing to me the difference in a driving experience when trees and nature are the primary surrounding versus a smattering of billboards. As a state we have to do better in protecting our scenic views and minimizing the visual pollution that is threatening our traveling public experience and safety.”

Scenic Texas also recognizes the work of Texas House Representatives Geanie Morrison (R, Victoria) and Terry Canales (D, Edinberg) for the passage of SB 357.

In addition to advocacy related to protecting scenic highways, Scenic Texas is committed to education and planning. Through the Scenic City Certification Program, Scenic Texas provides educational resources to Texas cities that are establishing or revising ordinances that impact the streetscapes. Scenic Texas also supports urban forestry projects, tree planting and preservation initiatives, the creation of scenic roads and districts, the establishment and funding of parks and green space, the forestation of our highways, and the preservation of historic areas.

SCENIC TEXAS HIRES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Sarah Tober to Lead Non-Profit Dedicated to Preserving State’s Largest Public Space

Scenic Texas, the only non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of our state’s visual environment, particularly as seen by the traveling public, announced today that the Board of Directors hired Sarah Tober to be the Executive Director of Scenic Texas based in Austin, Texas.

“We are thrilled that Sarah will be leading the implementation of our expanded mission across Texas. She brings a fresh perspective, and she has a unique combination of related non-profit and business experience including excellent communication skills,” said Scenic Texas Board President Margaret Lloyd.

The Scenic Texas Board of Directors is leading a repositioning of the organization within the space of conservation and preservation. With a newly formed strategic plan and refined mission, Scenic Texas recognizes the rights-of-way along streets, roadways, highways, and byways as the state’s largest public space. Scenic Texas is the only organization that focuses solely on the visual environment — or what travelers see — while on daily journeys through Texas communities and across the state.

“As a fifth generation Texan with a heart for preserving our great state’s scenic highways and byways, I am elated to work for Scenic Texas,” said Scenic Texas Executive Director Sarah Tober. “The work Lady Bird Johnson began on the beautification of our communities and roadways is far from done, and our mission will further that shared vision that strikes a balance between nature and good development.”

As a community leader and an outdoor enthusiast with more than 16 years of experience in non-profits, preservation, and conservation, Tober recognizes the importance of the Scenic Texas mission — preserving and promoting Texas’ uniqueness while protecting our natural treasures and transportation corridors that provide ecological benefits as well as travel tourism experiences.

She recently completed the UT MBA program, served as the communications director for a small business advocacy group, and managed her own communications company. Other work includes the Texas Historical Commission, the Central Texas Electric Vehicle Initiative, and the San Antonio Conservation Society. Tober also completed the Texas Master Gardener certification in 2010 and is a member of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Through the Scenic City Certification Program, Scenic Texas provides educational resources to Texas cities that are establishing or revising ordinances that impact the streetscapes. Additionally, Scenic Texas supports urban forestry projects, tree planting and preservation initiatives, the creation of scenic roads and districts, the establishment and funding of parks and green space, the forestation of our highways, and the preservation of historic areas.

 

URGENT — SCENIC TEXAS ACTION ALERT!

The Texas Department of Transportation is considering a short-sighted proposal that would double the maximum height of billboards in our state, raising the limit from 42.5 feet to 85 feet. This would erode Texas’ natural scenery and cause billboard blight to litter our state’s roadways.

Fortunately, there is a bill in the Texas Legislature to keep monstrous billboards from polluting our state. HB 3368, authored by Rep. Geanie Morrison, aligns with our mission of preserving Texas’s scenic beauty by maintaining the current height restriction for billboards. The Senate unanimously passed the identical version of this bill and now we need the House to do the same. We don’t want to risk the spread of billboards that tower almost as tall as nine-story buildings.

 Call your local representatives – particularly those on the Transportation and Calendars Committees – and urge them to support this bill today! 

You can find your local representatives by clicking here.

13 Texas Cities Earn Prominent Scenic City Certification in 2018

13 Texas Cities Earn Prominent Scenic City Certification in 2018

Cities recognized for excellence in scenic standards.
Total number of certified cities grows to 75

 

HOUSTON – July 10, 2018 – Today, 13 Texas cities have been recognized as 2018 Certified Scenic City award recipients through the Scenic City Certification Program, a project of Scenic Texas and its 15 Program Partner organizations. The Scenic City Certification Program recognizes cities for their demonstrated commitment to high-quality scenic standards for public roadways and public spaces.  Four cities have earned certification for the first time and nine are re-certifying or upgrading existing certification status, bringing the total number of certified cities across Texas to 75.

The Scenic City Certification Program is the only program of its kind in the United States to devise a comprehensive set of model standards for the design and development of public roadways and public spaces into one evaluation program. Any Texas city may apply to the Scenic City Certification Program for an objective review of its existing municipal infrastructure ordinances as they relate to the model standards. Assessment is points-based, and every city applicant receives a detailed, scored evaluation that identifies both strengths and areas for improvement. Official certification is earned by cities that score points in the upper range and meet threshold standards for landscaping, tree planting and sign regulation.

 

“Through the Scenic City Certification Program, cities access a low cost, high rate-of-return diagnostic tool,” said Anne Culver, executive vice president of Scenic Texas. “The detailed 360° evaluation 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 2018 and their rankings are:

 

Bee Cave (Ranked Up) – Platinum

Corinth (Ranked Up) – Silver

Duncanville (First-Time) – Bronze

Fort Worth (Re-Certified) – Gold

Little Elm (First-Time) – Silver

Manor (First-Time) – Bronze

McKinney (Re-Certified) – Platinum

Nacogdoches (First-Time) – Recognized

Pharr (Ranked Up) – Silver

Prosper (Ranked Up) – Silver

Rockwall (Re-Certified) – Platinum

Seabrook (Re-Certified) – Recognized

West University Place (Re-Certified) – Silver

 

A reception to present these 13 municipalities with their Scenic City Certification awards will be held on October 11, 2018 in Fort Worth, during the Texas Municipal League’s Annual Conference week.

 

The Scenic City application period for 2019 opens January 1, 2019. Any interested Texas municipality may go online now     to review the Program standards and application process at 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, Hill Country Alliance, 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. Scenic Texas promotes enhanced design standards for public projects, sign regulation, freeway landscaping and scenic byway development. Visit www.scenictexas.org.

CERTIFIED SCENIC CITIES 2010-2018

 

PLATINUM

Bee Cave

Cedar Park

Fairview

Flower Mound

Frisco

McKinney

Missouri City

North Richland Hills

Plano

Richardson

Roanoke

Rockwall

Southlake

 

GOLD

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

Corinth

El Campo

Granbury

Grapevine

Houston

Irving

Little Elm

McAllen

Nolanville

Pharr

Prosper

Waxahachie

West University Place

 

 

BRONZE

Bastrop

Beaumont

Bedford

Duncanville

Friendswood

La Vernia

Leon Valley

Manor

Marble Falls

Nassau Bay

Richmond

Webster

 

RECOGNIZED

Double Oak

Kennedale

Lucas

Magnolia

Nacogdoches

Pilot Point

Seabrook

Shavano Park

Taylor

West Lake Hills

 

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

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