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City works to balance business, beautification

City-of-Mission-logoA move to allow more signs along the Mission highway was met with protest from local government watchdog Virginia Townsend at a recent city workshop.

As Planning Director Daniel Tijerina went over proposed changes to the city’s sign ordinance, which would allow more billboards along U.S. 83, Townsend tapped him on the shoulder and asked if she could speak.

“How does having more signs enhance our community? What is good about having more? What is pretty about it? Why do we want to make it less stringent than what we have?” Townsend asked. “I certainly don’t think there’s anything great about allowing more signs.”

“People want them, Virginia, believe it or not,” Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas said.

But Townsend later responded that businesses can post signs somewhere else. “It’s not attractive,” she said.

“You don’t think so?” Salinas asked. And when she said “no,” Salinas pressed the issue, “You didn’t like me on the billboard?”

“No,” Townsend repeated. “I don’t like so many signs. You have to be careful that you don’t have so many, not so close together.”

Salinas said with the city attracting more businesses, he didn’t see anything wrong with helping them find a way to promote themselves. He pointed out the city’s current guidelines for constructing billboards is more stringent than the Texas Department of Transportation’s regulation.

TxDOT requires 1,500 linear feet between billboards. The city requires an 1,800-foot radius. The radius includes signs on the other side of the highway, while the linear feet requirement only measures one side of the highway.

“They want to be good to businesses, fine,” Townsend said of TxDOT’s standards. “I want to be good to Mission.”

If the city were to amend its standard, there would be space for three more billboards on U.S. 83 in Mission: near Holland, close to Tinseltown and between Stewart and Glasscock. City Manager Martin Garza said the city has received calls from businesses in and around Mission that want to advertise, but there’s no space. City officials also are looking at upgrading Conway Avenue’s zoning to allow for more signs north of State Highway 495.

Salinas pointed out the city’s 26 parks and told Townsend perhaps the city would consider advertising those on the highway billboards.

“People who like parks like nature usually, and signs don’t enhance nature,” Townsend responded.

 Garza later emphasized as the discussion moved to business regulations, that beautification is important to the city. He suggested requiring businesses to add more landscaping on islands and medians on the property so the greenery is not just all around the perimeter.

And in the upcoming fiscal year, the city has set aside $418,000 for park improvements.

City Manager Martin Garza presented members of the City Council with a map showing parks that have irrigation, partial irrigation or no irrigation. Included in the budget for park improvements is funding to install irrigation at a few more of the parks, but Salinas said he wants to see numbers on what it would cost to irrigate all parks.

Garza suggested using the whole $418,000 for irrigation, and Salinas agreed. Garza said the cost of irrigation could range from $15,000 to $30,000.

“Well, work it out with me and make sure that we get irrigation at every park,” Salinas said.

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