It's a controversy over a cross, a cowboy, and the state's right of way.
We first told you Sunday night about a Madisonville family notified by the state to pick up their yard decorations and move them off of state property. On Monday, we learned more about the state's concerns about cleaning up their right of way,even when it comes up against a homeowner's religious views and decorations.
It was a moving day of sorts for Mike Stockman. For months, this cross and cowboy have adorned his front yard, but now TxDOT wants them out of the way.
"God owned this property a lot longer that the state of Texas owned this property, and God's going to own it a lot longer after the state of Texas is gone," Madisonville resident Mike Stockman said.
"The main reason we do this is because things that are on our state right of way have not been crash tested, so if someone were to run off the roadway and hit it with their car, it could go through the windshield and kill them," Bob Colwell with the Texas Department of Transportation said.
Colwell says signs and mailboxes located on state right of ways are crash tested and often even bolted down, so just in case a motorist hits it, it won't go through the windshield.
"It had nothing to do with the religious connotation," Colwell said. "It wouldn't matter if it was a cross, if it was a sign, or a vehicle. If it's in an encroachment for our state highway, then we would contact the owner to move it."
Stockman says he was contacted, but the letter didn't focus on safety, but rather, visibility.
Stockman says his letter reads: "A sign means: an outdoor light display, device, fixture, painting, drawing, message, plaque or poster or other thing whose purpose is intended to advertise or inform."
Neighbors say it's a ruling they don't agree with.
"I just think they should be able to put it where everyone can see it," Bill Key said.
But for now, the Stockman's are picking up their cross and moving it elsewhere. Although now farther from road, they hopes its message stays the same.
"Highway 21 is one of the most dangerous highways in the State of Texas. You always hear of accidents or fatalities, and I thought maybe if they see that cross before getting on the highway, that will save some people," Stockman said.
Stockman doesn't think moving the yard decorations are going to make the roads out that way much safer. But TxDOT says as long as they are off their property, the Stockman's can still put up their cross and cowboy yard decorations wherever they want.
But the issue may not be over yet. Stockman says he will contact Governor Rick Perry and see if any exceptions can made.
Officials with TxDOT also point out they send out these notifications all the time. Some examples include car dealerships who advertise too close to the streets, people parking their car on state property while they are trying to sell it, and even having stone mailboxes put in too close to the roadway.
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