Spicewood residents boycott advertisers along Hwy. 71

(Graphic illustration by Jay Jones/Community Impact Newspaper)
(Graphic illustration by Jay Jones/Community Impact Newspaper)

(Graphic illustration by Jay Jones/Community Impact Newspaper)

Over the past 15 years, Spicewood resident Mike Chandler said he has witnessed a great deal of change in his once rural neighborhood. Spicewood has seen an increase in population, traffic, development and most recently, outdoor advertising, he said, and he has been battling the placement of billboards along Hwy. 71 since 2008, when one was placed near the entrance of his driveway.

“Back then, I went and did a count and we had about eight to 10 billboards from Bee Creek Road all the way out this direction towards Spicewood, [at Hwy. 71's intersection with Spur 191],” Chandler said.
Today, he said, that number has increased to 28.

In 1965 Lady Bird Johnson spearheaded an effort to reduce the amount of outdoor commercial advertising along the countries’ highways. The Highway Beautification Act set restrictions on the size, spacing, lighting and height requirements of billboards on certain roadways. Prior to installation, an entity would be required to meet a series of standards in order to obtain a license.

However, while the state is entitled to enforce a stricter set of regulations, the restrictions provided by the HBA are relatively minimal, according to Adam Hammons, a public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation.
Further complicating the issue for area residents, while individual cities have the authority to pass stricter ordinances with respect to outdoor advertising, Spicewood, an incorporated area spanning three separate counties, does not have jurisdiction to enact such regulations.

Chandler said that until there are greater restrictions placed on outdoor advertising, some Spicewood residents are calling for a boycott on the businesses and advertising firms who choose to add to the already cluttered roadway. He added residents are placing calls to these companies warning them of the backlash.

“It’s not hard to boycott these businesses; a lot of them are out of our area,” Chandler said.
Most of the advertisements are not specifically targeting Spicewood residents. Rather, the ads are aimed at Hwy. 71 drivers, according to Chandler, who pointed out a billboard for the convenience store Buc-ee’s has recently been installed despite the closest location being nearly 60 miles away.

Representative Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, has taken notice of the area’s complaints and is scheduling a town hall meeting for Dec. 17*, according to a statement from Madeline White, Goodwin’s chief of staff.

“During the legislative session, I was proud to co-author [House Bill] 1303 by Representative Erin Zwiener, which would have prohibited the ability to erect billboards along certain roads in Hays County," Goodwin said in an email. "I know that preserving the natural scenery and beauty of the Texas Hill Country matters deeply to my constituents, and I am researching possible solutions on the issue.”
Chandler said he hopes the town hall will result in a greater understanding of how officials can potentially limit the placement of these advertisements he describes as distracting.

“We moved out here for a reason, and that was for the peace and quiet and the scenery, and everyone has diverted from that,” he said.
By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.


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