Variance request prompts Conroe to revisit billboard ordinance

A proposal to convert a static billboard to digital sparked the city of Conroe to revisit an ordinance that currently prohibits the large signs around the city and in its extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Thomas Thrash with Houston-based MH Outdoor Media presented information to the council Wednesday regarding the company’s desired to convert a static billboard on Loop 336 and Texas 105 to digital.

“It gives us an opportunity to maintain them in a better way and also use out technology to make those boards for profitable,” Thrash said.

Councilman Duke Coon said the issue is not new for the city.

“Historically the council here has drawn a hard line in the sand on construction of new boards not only in the city but our ETJ,” Coon said. “At one time, and not sure why it was removed from the ordinance, we had a replacement program.”


The program, Coon noted, required companies to remove several static billboards if a digital one was installed.

Since 2007, the city has amended its ordinance regarding the billboard several times. During a March 2015 meeting, the council unanimously voted to extend the prohibition of billboards within city limits to the extraterritorial jurisdiction now and in the future.

Coon said the city has problems with static billboards that have degraded. Thrash said MH Outdoor currently has not unsold billboards in the city.

City Attorney Gary Scott said approving the request from Thrash would be against the city ordinance.

“Our code does not allow this,” Scott said noting at one time the ordinance allowed for static boards to be removed for digital but that has been changed.

According to Director of Community Development Nance Mikeska, the ordinance regarding billboards was repealed by a previous council because it was not reducing the number of billboard but only changing the faces of existing signs.


“We were gaining nothing by removing the face,” Mikeska said adding she recently visited with a couple council members who agree the ordinance may needed to be revisited. “It may be time because code enforcement is getting calls daily about boards that no longer have ads on them and are not only in disrepair but aren’t serving your purpose and certainly not ours.”

Thrash said his company was willing to remove a couple of billboard structures in exchange for the variance.

Coon said while he wasn’t originally supportive of the variance, he said knowing the company would remove two existing structure would be a “win-win”.

However, Mikeska said that was the requirement originally but noted another issue the city was having was companies putting up digital signs on major thoroughfares in exchange for removing static signs in less traveled areas.

Scott cautioned if the council allowed for the variance, it would open the door for other companies to make similar requests.

Mikeska said if the council wanted to revisit digital billboard, the staff would like to research how other cities handle the structures and bring it back for discussion at a later date.

“(Those cities) have some really good ideas that would help in this issue,” Mikeska said. “I agree with Gary, we need to get the ordinance right and it would take that long to do.”

No timeline on when the ordinance would be back for discussion.

Written by Catherine Dominguez

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