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Council OKs banner signs, nixes billboards

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

Lockhart’s sign ordinances fell under heavy fire on Tuesday evening as members of the Lockhart City Council weighed how best to help local businesses advertise as traffic patterns change as a result of State Highway 130.

In October, the council considered designating the future right-of-way of SH-130 as a scenic route

, in effect prohibiting the erection of billboards on the highway through Lockhart and the extraterritorial jurisdiction. The first four segments of the highway have already been designated as a scenic route by the Texas Legislature for the same purposes.

The issue has proved divisive for the council, and members of the community have come forward voicing fervent support and adamant opposition to designating SH-130 a scenic route. While most agree that too many billboards on the route would create an eyesore and destroy the natural beauty of the rural areas of the route, concerns about the proposal ran the gamut from the city exercising too much control over the rights of private property owners to the potentially negative impact certain business might realize from a prohibition of off-premise advertising on a major thoroughfare.

Terry Black, one of the most vocal critics of the proposal, reminded the council that his businesses’ advertising has already been impacted by the construction and would be significantly impacted by a billboard restriction.

“This is an important issue, and there should be concessions for local businesses advertising out there,” Black said. “We want to take that traffic and pull them in to our businesses, because the businesses are the ones that pay the bills here – and if we can’t capitalize on that traffic, we can’t pay those sales taxes and property taxes.”

One suggested compromise was to participate in the Texas Department of Transportation’s Logo Signs program. However, only those businesses located on a frontage road may participate in the Logo program, effectively excluding the bulk of Lockhart’s business community.

After much discussion and several proposed compromises, the council finally voted to designate the scenic route over protest from some member of the council.

“I may be on an island by myself on this, but I am opposed to telling people what they can and can’t do on their property,” District One Councilmember Kenny Roland said. “We don’t want it to get too crowded, but we can set limits, and find a way to make it aesthetically pleasing. The more information we can get out about Lockhart, the better off we’re going to be.”

Roland urged his fellow councilmembers to table the initiative again in an effort to gather more information and public input.

At Large Councilmember Paul Gomez also spoke against the measure, cautioning his colleagues about the council attempting to exercise too much control.

The pair were outvoted, however, and the ordinance designating SH-130 as a scenic route passed 4-2. Under the ordinance, billboard construction will be prohibited for 2,500 feet on either side of the highway. However, the council did agree that some signs, under the control of a governmental body, will be allowed to try and drive traffic off the highway and into Lockhart.

City attorney Peter Gruning said the exact language required to allow a governmental body to exercise control over the signs would have to be researched. He will bring additional information to council at a later time.

In a related item, the council also considered revising the City’s ordinance regarding on-premise banner signs.

According to Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram and City Manager Vance Rodgers, several businesses have expressed the need for on-premise banner advertising for special promotions. The signs, however, have been tightly restricted by existing ordinances, a situation that has caused headaches for code enforcers for quite some time.

“What happens is that we go out and enforce one banner, and that business complains that there are other businesses with the same kind of signs,” Bertram said. “Then when one comes down, another one goes up.”

The proposed ordinance change will allow for businesses to have up to 32 square feet of banner signage on a permanent structure specifically built for the display of banner signs.

District Four Councilmember Richard Banks vehemently opposed the revisions, warning the rest of the council that it would “make this city look junky.”

City Planner Dan Gibson also recommended the council deny the proposed changes, saying banner signs could change the look of the city’s streets and indicating he had not had the opportunity to research other cities to determine their stand on banner signage.

The remaining councilmembers, however, agreed businesses should be given the additional opportunity for on-premise self-promotion, and approved the ordinance 5 – 1. Mayor Pro Tem Frank Estrada was absent.

In brief news:
The Council considered naming the scenic route of State Highway 130 through Lockhart, but opted instead to open the naming procedure up to a “contest,” allowing for public input. More details about the naming contest will be announced in January, according to Bertram.

They approved an interlocal agreement with several Caldwell County volunteer fire departments, under which the City of Lockhart will provide dispatching services for the rural fire departments.

Members of OnARoll presented a progress report on the Lockhart Skate Park. They indicated forward motion on the project which included a request for bids on the planning and construction of Phase One of the skate park. Additionally, they reported having more than $75,000 in available funds and the potential for another $60,000 in in-kind contributions toward the construction of a skate park.

The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Room of Lockhart City Hall. The meetings are open to the public and televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.

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