A new bill filed by State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) would bar new billboards on a number of scenic Hill Country roads.
HB 1303, or the Hill Country Scenic Highway Bill, prohibits the placement of billboards along RM 1826, RM 150 and RM 967, located in the Northern and Western portion of the county.
Zwiener’s initiative comes after a push to preserve dark-sky communities throughout Hays County and recent battles to eradicate billboards.
“Western Hays County is growing fast, but folks visit and move here because of the beautiful scenery,” Zwiener said. “We must protect tourism, our property values and our beautiful views.”
The bill, which was filed in early February, was supported by the Friendship Alliance, Hill Country Alliance and Rim Rock Subdivision, three groups that represent some of the neighboring communities around RM 1826.
Jeanine Christensen, secretary for the Friendship Alliance, started a petition to designate the three roads as “scenic highways,” which has received around 1,500 signatures as of press time.
“I’d like to frame it as a way to preserve the best things the Hill Country roads have to offer,” Christensen said. “There are so many things we love about Central Texas and I’m worried they are all going to go away. We are growing so fast and there is such little regulatory infrastructure in the unincorporated areas of the county.”
For Christensen and her fellow neighbors, the bill could potentially close some wounds from a previous battle against billboards in the area.
In 2017, the News-Dispatch reported the controversy surrounding a pair of billboards erected near the Driftwood area. The signs, which were placed on FM 1826 in November 2017, are more than 40 feet tall with space for four 300-square foot advertisements.
The location of the signs is in an unincorporated area of the county and outside of the Dripping Springs extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), giving the city no authority to enforce its sign ordinance, which does not allow billboards.
At a public hearing on Dec.13, 2017, residents raised objections to the billboard, citing lighting and beautification concerns.
Since the billboards were erected, Western Hays County residents have fought hard against developments in rural areas of the county.
Christensen said if cities cannot regulate areas located outside of its ETJ, local representatives can work to make their concerns a reality.
“Being able to see the stars at night is something not everyone gets to witness and that means a lot to people out here,” Christensen said. “We get what we want, but future residents get a chance to get a taste of what exactly makes the Hill Country so special.”