BRAZORIA — The city manager failed to carefully read the ordinance that outlawed the signs and to City Council’s dismay, an advertising company began construction on a new billboard off of Highway 36.
Olan Massingill issued a permit for Advertising Higher Inc. to build the billboard on the corner of West Smith Street and North Brooks Street in late August, he said.
This week, when construction began, a council member informed him that they outlawed billboards in the city in July 2018, Massingill said.
There is an old building on that property, which is a bit of an eyesore, he said.
“I thought they’d be looking at the billboard instead of that building,” Massingill said.
He admitted his mistake and called for an emergency council meeting Wednesday afternoon to see what they could do to stop construction.
“I revoked the permit, that was my process this morning,” Massingill said during the meeting.
But after the revocation and conversations with the advertising company, the contractors and the landowner, the contractors refused to stop building, he said.
City Council, through its enforcement officer, can issue a stop work order, City Attorney Charlie Stevenson said.
If they refuse to stop then the city can go to court to order an injunction on construction of the sign, he said.
If the city files a lawsuit and is successful, the city would likely be responsible for expenses the company incurred during construction, Stevenson said.
“I want to fight it, but I don’t want to cost the city a lot of money either,” Mayor Roger Shugart said.
Council agreed that Massingill should issue that stop work order before the workday was over. Councilman Gary Kersh made a motion to go forward with this process and approach Texas Municipal League for legal representation if necessary. Council unanimously accepted the motion, though Councilwoman Gail Logsdon pulled into the parking lot as soon as the meeting was over.
Massingill, Public Works Director Derrell Travis and Police Chief Neal Longbotham hurried to create and serve the stop work order as the meeting ended at about 4:45 p.m.
Councilwoman Susan Parker drove to a parking lot across the street, pointed her car toward the sign and watched the continued construction through her windshield.
The stop work order and citation were served Wednesday evening, but contractors continued construction, Shugart said.
“They claim we don’t have any authority, but they’re dead wrong,” he said.
The workers indicated they’d be back in the morning, Shugart said.
After that order is served, the owner can be fined up to $500 per day if found guilty of violating the city’s law, Stevenson said.
Even if construction stops, there is no way to know when the board would be dismantled.
“It could be years sitting here like that,” Massingill said.
Messages left with two phone numbers provided for Advertising Higher were not returned Wednesday afternoon.