I am stepping out of Chester County to write about something I still hate: BILLBOARDS.
I received a phone call in 2008 I think it was: “How do you feel about billboards because there is an imminent threat to Bryn Mawr?” When I heard the location, I was astounded. When I heard the proposed size of the billboards, I was also dumbfounded because I was told there were to be two proposed, with sizes of approximately 672 square feet each. That’s I-95 huge on the equivalent Main Street.
Back then one day I was sitting in a neighbor’s garden and I thought about those billboards. You see, gardens no matter how small are one of life’s great gifts. But what if billboards became the view? Because for a few small neighborhoods on the Main Line I felt that would be just awful.
We fought those billboards for years between Lower Merion and Haverford Townships. The billboard cases are STILL pending for Haverford Township I was told a few months ago, but I thought the issue was dead for Lower Merion Township until this afternoon when someone sent me this:
It doesn’t take a bloodhound led by Sherlock Holmes to figure out sadly who appears to be back:
Oy vey, it must be billboard groundhog day right?
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When you’re talking about beautifying our communities, how are the billboards beautiful except to the guy fattening his wallet with them?
When these billboard issues are challenged it always seems as if the billboard companies think their First Amendment rights are being denied which I never get. Did our Founding Fathers help create the First Amendment so billboard-company owners could erect billboards in our communities? I believe this is an issue of public health, safety and welfare, yet here we are stuck on “need” versus “want” parading around in a constitutional-rights costume?
And can we all admit light pollution is real and digital billboards have the potential to be EXTRA distracting to drivers?
This same company has billboard nonsense still pending in Tredyffrin for Paoli where they wish to plunk their GIANT digital billboard down at 252 and Route 30 where the Okie Clockworks building is at present. My friend Pattye wrote this summer on her blog about it:
Thank you to the many residents who filled the seats of the township building or stood in the back of Keene Hall last night for the Zoning Hearing Board meeting. Thank you to the many residents who last night (and at the two previous Zoning Hearing Board meetings) eloquently delivered their message of “Just Say No” to a digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Avenue in Paoli.
As the last resident to speak in opposition to the digital billboard last night my words were simple, “we are not a community divided”! For eleven months, since Catalyst Outdoor Advertising first came to the township with their proposal to demolish the Clockworks building and install two large digital billboards and a reflecting pool, the community has stood in complete solidarity in its opposition. We do not want the digital billboard. Period….
So where do we go from here? After much discussion between the Zoning Hearing Board members, its solicitor and attorneys from the township and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising, a timeline for legal responses from both sides was established. Much of this discussion was difficult to follow but at the end, I asked two questions for clarification; (1) when would the residents who sought ‘party status’ know if it was granted and (2) when would the Zoning Hearing Board make their final determination.
There will be a special meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board on Thursday, October 24 (presumably at 7 PM but not announced). At that meeting, the public will learn which residents receive party status and we will know the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board.
As I said last night to the members of the Zoning Hearing Board, the final decision rests with them– the township heard the public and denied the application for the digital billboard and it’s now up to them to uphold and support. The public has spoken … this is not a community divided!
But we are talking about Lower Merion again here. I am somewhat gobsmacked that they are trying again given the last time they challenged Lower Merion Township on billboards. See article from December 2012:
That space on a wall facing Bryn Mawr’s Five Points intersection will remain blank, following a state court’s rejection of a billboard company’s appeal of a violation order in Lower Merion Township.
On Wednesday, a three-judge Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court panel upheld an Oct. 14, 2010, decision by the township’s zoning hearing board that an 8 ½-by-34-foot vinyl-wrapped sign on a building at 762-766 Old Railroad Avenue was illegal.
AdSmart Outdoor Advertising Inc. had appealed the zoning board’s decision to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, which in February affirmed the township order. The company immediately took the matter to the higher court, but in March removed the billboard while the appeal was pending…..
The court found that AdSmart had not demonstrated good faith “in failing to seek any type of zoning approval” before erecting the sign, and rejected its request for the award of costs and fees.
Citing case law, Simpson wrote, “A person who completely disregards the requirement of securing a building permit cannot acquire any vested right in the structure.”
Mind you after Superior Court, this went to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court and even THEY said no:
The Five Points Intersection billboard will stay down.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied Adsmart Outdoor Advertising‘s petition for an allowance of appeal, putting what looks to be an end to the longstanding controversy over the billboard that was removed last spring.
“It’s the final nail in the coffin for the Bryn Mawr billboard,” Lower Merion’s Ward 10 Commissioner Scott Zelov told his constituents in an email. “This is another victory against unwanted billboards that don’t belong in our suburban community.”
So OMG it IS LITERALLY groundhog day at least in Bryn Mawr and the other location? WHY?????
Appeal No. 4473
Applicant: 766 W. Railroad Outdoor, LLC
Property: 762, 764, & 766 West Railroad Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
known as tax map parcel nos. 40-00-48496-00-1; 40-00-48500-00-6; and
a.k.a. 762, 764, & 766 Old Railroad Avenue West, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
(Election District #10) C 2 Commercial District
The Applicant proposes to install a billboard sign on the exposed party wall between 762 and 764 West Railroad Avenue and is challenging the substantive validity of the Zoning Ordinance, in accordance with the PA Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) sections 909.1(a)(1) & 916.1(a)(1).
The Applicant contends that the Lower Merion Township Zoning Ordinance improperly restricts the development and use of land in the Township for billboards (i.e. off-site premises signage); specifically that 1) §155-93.3 E of the Zoning Ordinance limits the placement of billboards to properties only within the Manufacturing and Industrial zoning district, along with the dimensional requirements for billboards are a) unreasonable, arbitrary, unduly restrictive, exclusionary, and
not a valid exercise of the Township’s police powers, and b) unreasonably infringe upon an affected landowner’s constitutionally protected right to freely use and enjoy the landowner’s property for a billboard, 2) the provisions of §155-93.3 E, when taken together, make it such that there is no area within the Township where a billboard sign would be permitted, 3) §155-93.3 E is illusory in that it gives the impression that billboards are permitted but takes that ability away
with the imposition of the restrictions found in its provisions, and 4) §155-93.3 E is contrary to the MPC and PA case law as to billboard signage. The Applicant also challenges the ability of the Township to require the Applicant to fund an escrow account that reimburses the Township consultants and its legal counsel to provide services in opposition to this challenge application.
The Applicant requests that the Zoning Hearing Board find that §155-93.3 E of the Zoning Ordinance is invalid. Anyone interested in reviewing the application and plans may review this information in the Building Regulations Division at the Township Building, between 8:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday
through Friday. Anyone requiring special accommodations for the Meeting or the Hearing should contact this office at least three days prior to the hearing (610-645-6172 or email@example.com).
It’s that location again years later? WHY????
And who owns the building now? (I never knew back then.) Once again, everything old is new again…sigh. I no longer live in Lower Merion, but this is craziness in my humble opinion and I had to point it out. I will also note that not only is there the billboard issue in Tredyffrin I pointed out earlier in this post, there is whatever happened to the billboard issue in West Whiteland for Route 100 that would be next to where there was that fire recently and where does THAT stand?
Billboards are still blight upon our communities. We have enough screen time every day as it is that we don’t need them supersized and along our roads and in our communities, do we? Yet….
Buckle up Lower Merion and get out the popcorn.