A pair of recently erected billboards near Driftwood stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy during a heated town hall meeting Dec. 13.
The billboards were put up in late November on FM 1826 outside of the Rim Rock neighborhood in Driftwood, which is located near Salt Lick BBQ. The billboards are over 40 feet tall and have space for four 300-square foot advertisements.
Media Choice, an outdoor advertising company headquartered in Austin, owns the two billboards along FM 1826. However, at this time, no advertisements have been posted on the boards yet.
Meeting attendees voiced their complaints during the town hall meeting where the construction of a self-storage unit was also a topic of discussion.
Some community members said the signs diminish the quality of Hill Country aesthetic that the area is known for. They claimed the signs can be seen from some of their homes.
For other community members, they see the oversized signs as a hazard.
Pam and Jim Grayson of Driftwood, who sat in the front row of the meeting, said the billboards pick up reflective lights and could be extra dangerous for the people traveling down the already narrow and winding roads.
Other people in the community are worried about the lights on the billboards at night.
However, the billboards are located in an unincorporated area of Hays County and are not in the city of Dripping Springs’ ETJ.
Bonnie Gonzalez, Dripping Springs communications coordinator, said the billboards are located in a “hole” in the city’s ETJ, which prevents the city from enacting its in-place sign ordinance.
“The city of Dripping Springs has no jurisdiction,” Gonzalez said in an emailed statement. “If the property was in the ETJ, then the city could enforce its sign ordnance, which doesn’t allow billboards.”
Mary Buchanan, a resident of Driftwood who lives off of FM 1826, said she came to the meeting because she “saw those big honking signs.”
“Didn’t Lady Bird Johnson teach them anything? You can do that in Austin, but not out here in the country,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan cited Johnson’s conservation of scenic areas, which ultimately led to the Highway Beautification Act of 1965.
“A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions,” Buchanan said.
Scott Clark, a resident of Rim Rock, said he wants to fight the billboards with their own weapons.
Clark advocated for signs near the billboards that would say something along the lines of “Keep the Hill County beautiful, boycott the businesses using these billboards.”
Clark said he hopes an opposing ad campaign will run the billboards out of town.
Many community members have also voiced their frustrations through op-eds and letters to the editor to publications.
Because the billboards are located on state roads and have all the required permits, residents will have to go through either the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) or the state legislature to make any changes from a legal standpoint.
Earlier this year, State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) introduced House Bill 1423, which aimed to designate portions of FM1826 and FM150 a scenic highway and could reduce signage. The bill was left pending in committee in May.
Barton Publications reached out to Media Choice for comment on the signs. A response was not returned prior to press time.