The city of Tomball is now in the process of tackling what they consider to have been a long standing nuisance within the town – out of control and unregulated signs.
The Tomball City Council passed a new sign ordinance last December that city workers can now enforce. It addresses everything from bandit signs to inflatable signs and provides, what they say, is a uniform system within the city limits.
"It's not a content driven ordinance, with the exception of obscenity," said Tomball City Planner Rebeca Guerra. "This is a sign ordinance that city council asked us to write and we want everyone to know that we are enforcing what they want."
Guerra said that city staffers are in the midst of a campaign to educate business owners about the ordinance. They won't be out handing out fines left and right and say they want to work with business owners, in order to help them get into compliance.
"We are always going to engage them first and let them know about the changes, before we attempt any other means," said Tomball Community Development Director Craig Meyers.
The staff has sent out a flyer to business owners, highlighting the major points of the new ordinance, while also holding a community meeting and enlisting the help of the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
"The purpose of all of this is outreach," Guerra said. "We want to give them a fair opportunity to fix any inconsistencies."
The new ordinance now prohibits inflatable signs, human or living signs, freestanding temporary signs, attention-getting devices, bandit signs, portable signs and obscene signs. It also will not allow new billboards to be placed within the city limits and if a billboard suffers more than 50 percent damage, it must be removed.
City workers are now working the major corridors, removing signs in the right-of-way, as well as educating business owners that are not in compliance.
"We are not a city that likes to issue violations," Guerra added. "We are trying to talk to people."
She gave an example that there are several businesses in town that only have banner signs, which aren't allowed to be permanent. She said part of the education effort is to let those businesses know that the Tomball Economic Development Corporation (TEDC) has grants available.
"Most folks don't know it, but TEDC can do a matching grant of up to $10,000 for sign improvement," she said.
While the enforcement of the ordinance is just in its infant stages, Guerra said there have already been some successes.
"We have had a great deal of luck in removing many inflatable and human signs," she said. "If people know that we aren't out there just to fine them, they are usually pretty receptive to what we are trying to do. We are never going to take action first, without giving them a chance to correct it."
For information about the sign ordinance, call city hall at 281-351-5484, or visit www.tomballtx.gov. For details about TEDC grants visit www.tomballtxedc.org.