Chapter 7: Procedures Regarding Advertising Sign Interests

Section 1: Advertising Sign Interests

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Procedure

When the pre-appraisal contact and inspection shows the presence of an advertising sign within the parcel, follow the following procedures before conducting the appraisal of the property:

  • Where landowner also owns the advertising sign:
    • Determine whether the landowner also owns the sign structure. If the property owner does own the sign structure, then proceed with conducting the appraisal, and advise the appraiser of such ownership. The appraiser should be instructed to consider the sign structure itself to be personal property and not include the value of the structure in the appraisal of the real property. The landowner should be provided relocation information relating to the sign structure (in the manner set out below, including the possibility of relocating the sign to the remainder where a partial acquisition is involved), and other relocation information should also be provided should the landowner also be considered displaced by the acquisition.
  • Where landowner does not own the advertising sign, complete all requirements listed below, before proceeding with the appraisal:
  • If the property owner does not own the advertising sign, do not acquire the sign structure as part of the land being acquired, but consider the sign structure itself to be personal property. Where an advertising sign is located upon the parcel and the sign is not owned by the property owner, attempt to obtain the following information from both the property owner and the sign owner relating to such sign:
    • By what authority or authorization is the sign allowed upon the property, and if by a written agreement, obtain a copy of such agreement (lease agreement usually). If unable to obtain a copy of a written agreement, obtain as much information as possible regarding any agreement authorizing the sign (such as whether there is in fact a written agreement, even though a copy may not be obtained from the landowner or the sign owner, how long the sign has been on the property, and when does the current agreement expire).
    • Check the sign structure for the presence of a permit number and verify with the Department Sign personnel to determine if the sign at this location has a current valid sign permit. If the sign is located within a municipality that is certified by TXDOT to issue its own sign permits, such verification should be made with the municipality.
    • If the parcel is only a partial acquisition, so there is a remainder, is the property owner willing to allow the sign owner to move and relocate the sign onto the remainder?

If the Department has been able to verify that there is a valid ground lease associated with the sign structure currently in effect with a remaining term of more than a month to month time period, the appraisal of the parcel may proceed, with the appraiser being instructed to consider the sign structure itself to be personal property and not include the value of the structure in the appraisal of the real property. All information obtained relating to the terms of the ground lease that is associated with the sign should be provided to the appraiser, and the appraiser should consider the ground lease as part of the real property appraisal in the manner set out under “Advertising Sign Sites” in TxDOT’s Appraisal and Review Manual.

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Relocation Procedures For Signs With Valid Permits

Where it has been verified above that the sign upon a specific parcel has a valid permit for the location upon such parcel, the additional procedures set out below regarding the relocation of such a legal sign should be followed. In the event it has definitely been determined that the sign does not have a valid permit, and is therefore considered an “illegal” sign, no relocation benefits or procedures should be offered to the sign owner. However, in such event, the ground lease associated with such sign structure (if separately determined to be a valid ground lease and for more than a month to month time period) will still need to be included in the appraisal of the parcel itself and such ground lease either released ( quitclaimed) by the sign owner prior to or at the closing of the parcel, or acquired through the eminent domain process in the same manner as other real property leases. Note: It is the general policy and procedure of the ROW Program Office in Austin to not close with the fee owner of the parcel without first having obtained a release of other real property leases that have more than a month to month term remaining (including ground leases associated with advertising sign structures).

If the parcel with the sign located upon it is located within a municipality or the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) of a municipality, the Right of Way Agent should determine whether there are any local zoning regulations that would restrict or prohibit the relocation of an existing sign onto the remainder of the same property or elsewhere upon another property within the municipality).

If there appear to be no local restrictions on relocating the sign either onto the remainder or to another location within the general vicinity, the Right of Way Agent should make contact with the sign owner and determine if sign owner will relocate the sign (either onto the remainder if the landowner will permit, or to another site of the sign owner’s selection in the vicinity). The Right of Way Agent should advise the sign owner that the sign owner may be eligible to receive payment of relocation benefits associated with such sign relocation. If there are local (municipal) zoning restrictions that prohibit the relocation of the sign structure within the municipality, the Right of Way Agent should still make contact with the sign owner and determine if the sign owner will relocate the sign to another location within the general marketing area served by the sign owner, outside of the municipality, or to the Sign Owner’s warehouse or other storage facility (again advising that the sign owner may be eligible to receive payment of relocation benefits associated with such sign relocation). In either event, at the time of the initial contact with the sign owner, the Right of Way Agent should provide relocation benefit information and additionally inform the sign owner that the Department’s Sign Regulations provide for less restrictive sign spacing requirements where a sign is being relocated due to such sign being displaced because of a highway right of way acquisition. As part of the relocation information provided to the sign owner, Form ROW-OA-Waiver should be provided to and executed by the sign owner; also see Moving Certain Off-Premise Signs (for State) relocation guidelines below.

If feasible, arrange for the completion of sign relocations prior to continuing with the acquisition of the parcel itself. Such completion must include the sign owner to executing a quitclaim deed using Form ROW-N-30 to any interest in the parcel as part of the completion of the relocation process),If such relocation has been completed, then the Right of Way agent may proceed with commencing with acquisition of the parcel without including the advertising sign structure, or any ground lease relating to the sign (from the perspective of the sign owner), and the additional steps below do not need to be followed. Note, however, that the ground lease (and any other real property leasehold interests) may still be considered as part of the appraisal of the value of the fee owner’s interest.

If it appears that the sign owner is unwilling to relocate the sign under the above procedures and circumstances, the Right of Way agent should proceed as follows:

  • The Right of Way agent should check with the local taxing entities (or a central appraisal office if one exists) to determine whether the owner of the sign (usually a sign company) has rendered the particular sign at this location for ad valorem taxes.
  • After gathering all of the above information regarding the sign ownership, agreements, zoning, permit status, and tax status, the Right of Way agent should then provide all of this information, for utilization in working with the land owner should a negotiated closing with such landowner be attempted. In general, the handling of ground leases associated with advertising signs, shall be accomplished in the same manner as other real property leasehold interests, and in order to close by negotiated deed, the landowner would need to work out agreements with any of the outstanding leasehold interests (Acquisition of Leasehold Interests (for State)) for which there may be a compensable interest (usually a lease for more than a month to month basis).
  • If releases of all of such compensable leasehold interests can not be obtained, then in order to obtain clear title, eminent domain proceedings will need to be utilized to acquire all property interests, and the landowner, and all parties holding compensable leasehold interests (including ground leases associated with advertising signs) must be joined as parties in the eminent domain proceedings. Copies of all of such leases, if they have been obtained, should be included in the eminent domain submission package. If the Right of Way Agent has determined that the sign owner has rendered the sign structure as real property for ad valorem tax purposes, notice and documentation of this fact (copies of the tax rendition), along with a copy of the sign lease should be included in the eminent domain submission package, and special note of this fact made on the Department’s cover memo.

Remove signs erected without property owner permission, non-permitted, or abandoned signs after parcel acquisition.

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