New billboards towering over Hill Country town lead to numerous complaints

Two new billboards stand over 40 feet tall along FM 1826 in the hill country. (KXAN Photo)
Two new billboards stand over 40 feet tall along FM 1826 in the hill country. (KXAN Photo)

DRIFTWOOD, Texas (KXAN) — More people are moving to communities just outside of Austin searching for a quiet neighborhood and a little more space, but two large billboard put up in a town southeast of Dripping Springs has many upset.

The billboards are near the intersection of Darden Hill Road and Farm to Market 1826 near Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood. That part of Hays County continues to grow, with new homes built daily. The billboards, however, were unexpected.

“There were no warnings whatsoever and we were just extremely appalled and very disappointed with the whole situation,” said Mike, who lives next to the new signs. He has asked us to only use his first name.

The two billboards stand over 40 feet tall and have space for four 300-square foot advertisements. “It feels like we may be living off of 35 or something. That belongs in an industrial neighborhood, not in a residential community with large lots and open spaces,” said Mike.

The city of Dripping Springs and the Texas Department of Transportation both say there have been numerous formal complaints filed about the new signs since they were built.

FM 1826 is a rural road with only two lanes and a small shoulder at parts. Mike says when the shock of seeing the signs started wearing off, he began thinking about the dangers that could come.

“I’ve witnessed three or four crashes myself just working in the backyard, one was a fatality. So, it’s already a dangerous intersection and if you add the distraction of a freeway sized billboard that is going to distract people on this dangerous two lane road, it’s going to be very hazardous,” he said.

The property where the billboards sit is surrounded by the Dripping Springs extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). According to the city, back in the 1980s the landowners chose not to be part of the ETJ, which means the city has no jurisdiction on what’s built on the property.

“It’s looming practically right over our yard, it’s terrible,” said Mike. “They came in with some equipment and took down some estate-sized live oak trees which was very appalling and then shortly after they ramrodded in the two big posts and the billboards went up right after that.”

According to TxDOT, the billboards are up to code and following all regulations. For now they’re permitted to stay, changing the views of the Hill Country into just another highway.

All other property along FM 1826 within the Dripping Springs ETJ has to follow the city’s sign ordinance which doesn’t allow billboards.

The new billboards come as growth brings more traffic to the road. TxDOT traffic counts from 2012 showed that stretch of road saw 6,500 vehicles per day. The latest TxDOT count is from 2016 which showed nearly 8,000 vehicles per day. That’s an increase of more than 22 percent.

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