In the wake of a multi-year legal tiff between TxDOT and an Austin-based real estate company over a freestanding Ron Paul 2012 sign outside of an erotica shop on Hwy. 71, a district appeals court has just struck down central parts of the Texas Highway Beautification Act, Dug Begley reports today. The ruling may have eventual implications for city makeover enthusiast Scenic Houston’s long-term de-billboarding quest, and comes right on the heels of the announcement last week that an additional 13 signs around Houston would be coming down.
The law in question, passed in 1972, lets TxDOT regulate advertising signage outside of city limits, with an exception allowing election-related political signs within a certain 80-day period prior to those elections (the Ron Paul sign was about a year early). The court found that the exception qualified as discrimination based on sign message content, a red flag in First Amendment speech cases — but rather than strike down the small section of the law giving special treatment to political signs, as TxDOT’s lawyers suggested, the Third District court took down the parts of the law giving TxDOT any authority to regulate ad signage at all
Scenic Houston’s count of billboards negotiated away since 2015 is now up to 68 — will the fallout from this ruling cause that trend to reverse? And could the case signal room for the eventual comeback of the inflatable gorilla to the Houston landscape?
- Core of Texas highway sign ban tossed by appeals court [Houston Chronicle]
- Outdoor Advertising Signs [Texas Department of Transportation]
- Previously on Swamplot: The Great Secret Billboard Repair Caper Begins