Victoria council changes rules for billboard company
By BY MELISSA CROWE - MCROWE@VICAD.COM
Feb. 19, 2013 at 8:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 18, 2013 at 8:19 p.m.
If drivers can't see a 400-square-foot billboard, maybe the sign isn't tall enough, at least that's what one sign company believes.
Victoria City Council threw out a decade-old precedent Tuesday in favor of allowing Lamar Outdoor Advertising to build a 47-foot tall billboard sign off Zac Lentz Parkway.
The restriction was set at 35-feet.
Chris Stokes, of Lamar Advertising, said his company wants to lease a portion of the Social Security Administration property at 8208 Northeast Zac Lentz Parkway to construct a new, vinyl billboard.
The high roadway would block the view of the sign, Stokes said. He believes raising the advertisement to 47-feet would direct traffic flow from the loop to businesses along Navarro Street.
However, members of the planning commission and former council members said the variance goes against the city's goal to reduce billboard proliferation.
Former councilwoman Shirley Buckert, who served from 1995 to 2006, was one of six who urged leaders to uphold the ordinance.
"Too many of them just make a mess," she said, adding, let's "not open the door to letting them go wild."
Planning Services Director Jared Mayfield said since the ordinance was adopted in 2001, there have been no variances granted to the height limit.
He noted that Super 8 has a 50-foot-high on-premise sign just across the loop.
"While they're allowed to go up to 50-feet-tall, they're typically no where near as large as a billboard," he said.
A billboard would be a much larger visual obstruction, he said.
In exchange for the variance, Stokes said the company will remove the 35-foot-tall Whittington Apartment billboard located about 1,200 feet away.
"We don't think we're setting a precedent that would allow anyone to build a taller billboard," Stokes said.
Councilwoman Josephine Soliz supported the change along with councilmen Emett Alvarez, David Hagan and Joe Truman.
"They already have 50-foot on-premise signs on the highway," Soliz said. "This makes sense."
Truman said he regularly drives Zac Lentz Parkway for work. The lower signs are a distraction, he said.
"I have found myself distracted by the lower sign, my eyes being pulled toward (it) causing me to steer toward the side of the road," Truman said. "A higher sign at that location may be a benefit."
Soliz said granting the variance would mean the company would only need one sign, rather than signs on either side of the loop.
"It's more economical for them," Soliz said.
On the south side of the loop, there is more than a mile between the hospital billboard and the Olive Garden sign, Mayfield said.
Councilman Paul Polasek said that there is nothing to prohibit someone from constructing a billboard across the way, in an area he called prime real estate.
"Four-hundred square-feet is the square footage of a mobile home," Polasek said. "The most important thing to me is how much we discuss the public's desire into not having them really tall."
Councilman Tom Halepaska called the variance "backwards."
"We just strengthened the billboard ordinance about two sessions ago by increasing the separation" requirements, Halepaska said. "This would seem a fly in the face of what we were just attempting to do."