Tredyffrin Township Denies Two Applications by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising Related to Digital Billboard Project in Paoli!

The end of 2018 left many of us in the community with more questions than answers about Tredyffrin Township’s direction regarding the future of the Clockworks building and the proposed digital billboard project at the intersection of Rts 252 and 30 in Paoli.  However, the New Year brings exciting news from the township on a couple of fronts.

If you recall, Tredyffrin Township received two applications from Catalyst Outdoor Advertising (dba “Tredyffrin Outdoor, LLC”) on December 18 related to their proposed digital billboard project – (1) a demolition permit application for the Clockworks building and (2) an application to switch the face of the small billboard (located next to the Clockworks building) to a digital one.

This week the public learned at the Board of Supervisors meeting that the Clockworks building demolition permit application was denied, with the township citing an ‘incomplete application’.  The Catalyst representatives had submitted the demolition application in December without including the signature of the owner of the property, Dale Nelson.

Thaddeus Bartkowski, the CEO of Catalyst has a signed 30 year lease on the small billboard located on the Clockworks site but does not actually own the property. The lease between Catalyst and Dale E. Nelson, the owner of the property, is only for the small sign located next to the Clockworks building. (The lease is included in the demolition documents).  So, then the question becomes how is it possible that Mr. Bartkowski thinks he can demolish a building on property that he doesn’t actually own? Did he think that the township staff review of the demolition application would perhaps not catch the glaring omission?

It is my understanding that a property sale agreement exists between Catalyst and Nelson (the owner of the property) for some future closing date. I have not seen a copy of the sale agreement — however there is no doubt that the agreement and expected closing date is based on certain terms – perhaps a contingency based on township approval for the digital billboard.

And important point to remember is that there is nothing to keep Catalyst from resubmitting the demolition permit application with Dale Nelson’s signature. The township demolition process does not require approval by the Board of Supervisors and the Clockworks building is not protected. I need to restate that Tredyffrin Township does not have a historic preservation ordinance — Clockworks building aside, no historic property is protected from demolition.

But you would have to wonder why Nelson would sign the demolition application on the Clockworks building prior to Catalyst actually purchasing the property. How about this scenario, Dale Nelson signs the demolition permit application, the Clockworks building comes down and Catalyst does not gain approval for the digital billboard. Were Tredyffrin Township to decide not to approve the proposed digital billboard monument, Catalyst may decide not to move forward on the property sale – thus leaving Dale Nelson with an empty lot, no revenue source from the Clockworks building and a community of unhappy residents! To date, Catalyst has not submitted the plans for the digital monument so there’s no action required on the part of the township.

The other application submitted by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising last month was for an “electric lamp changeable copy face” at 1819 Lancaster Ave, Paoli. Catalyst was proposing the digitizing of the existing small free standing advertising sign next to the Clockworks building.  Remember, this is the sign with the 30-year lease between Catalyst and Dale Nelson.

We learned yesterday that Matt Baumann, the Zoning Officer for Tredyffrin Township sent Thaddeus Bartkowski a letter denying the application by Catalyst to digitize the current sign on the Clockworks site.  The letter states that the proposed sign does not comply with the requirements of an advertising sign and is not permitted on the property. In its application, Catalyst suggests that the sign is an “electric lamp changeable copy face” and the township has determined that the sign is not a changeable copy sign. Catalyst does have the right to appeal the notice through the Zoning Hearing Board within 30 days.

With the denial of the application to digitize the existing sign and a denial on the demolition application of the Clockworks building (albeit they can resubmit with required signature) is it possible that Catalyst Outdoor Advertising will see the handwriting on the wall and take their plans for a digital billboard somewhere else?  Will Dale Nelson do some soul-searching and not sign the demolition application?

Although I’m excited that the township leadership has denied the two applications from Catalyst regarding the proposed digital billboard, it needs to be stated that the battle is not over.

And just when I thought that the “Ban the Digital Billboard” signs were safe, I have learned that two were stolen from a resident’s lawn over the weekend – this was the third set of signs stolen from this specific property, just steps from her front door on Old Eagle School Road.

I have additional “Ban” signs ready to go up in the next couple of weeks and I ask that you ask you friends, neighbors and co-workers to sign the “Ban the Digital Billboard” petition on Change.org. (Click here for the link to share).

Paoli, Pennsylvania is not New York City, Chicago or Philadelphia … It’s our community, we love it and don’t want a digital billboard!

 

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Application Filed to Demolish the Clockworks Building in Paoli + Video Clip of BAN the Digital Billboard Lawn Sign Thief!

Tonight was the last meeting of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors for 2018 and the public was met with a pronouncement by solicitor Vince Donahue.  He announced that at 4:45 PM TODAY, Catalyst Outdoor Advertising filed two applications with the township – the first application to make the current small billboard at the intersection of Lancaster Ave and Rt. 252 a digital billboard and the second application to DEMOLISH the Clockworks building!

No amount of upset and personal appeal to the supervisors on my part was going to save the Clockworks building! There is NO historic preservation ordinance of protection in Tredyffrin Township. Although the Clockworks building is included in the township’s 2003 historic preservation survey, it is meaningless – we do NOT protect our historic buildings in Tredyffrin Township. 

The sadness over the loss of this Brognard Okie building and its memories for many of the residents, is beyond words for me. To live in an area seeped in history, and calling a 300+ year old house my home, yet we do nothing to save our old buildings. My outburst at the meeting over the news was met only with stares from the supervisors – no comment from Chair Heather Greenberg (her last meeting tonight as chair) or from any of the others.

Back when the 18th century original Pugh Road farmhouse application to demolish was approved within 24 hours (and subsequently demolished), I asked the township for a waiting period for all historic properties contained in the historic resource survey.  I guess the clock will start to tick on the Clockworks demolition application starting tomorrow.

Apparently, the application to turn the small static billboard digital will take some legal review according to the township solicitor.  To be really clear here — anyone who doesn’t think that that demolishing the Clockworks building isn’t a precursor to two large digital billboards at this site needs to reconsider their position!

As I said to the supervisors tonight, this is no Merry Christmas news for Pattye Benson and the many other people in this township who care about our local history. Nearly 4,000 people signed the Change.org petition to BAN the Digital Billboard and Save the Clockworks Building in Paoli. None of it mattered — what a tremendous waste of time and effort! I’m just so sad.

At the suggestion of the Tredyffrin Township Police Chief Mike Beaty, I am releasing the video of stolen BAN the Digital Billboard lawn signs from private property. To date there were 93 lawn signs stolen from private property and without any other leads, I have decided to release the video from Dec. 3 at 9:34 AM. It would be great if we could find the person responsible for the thefts and maybe that road will help us fight back against the digital billboard and (I know that it’s a long shot!) maybe help save the Clockworks building if we can find a connection.

Please click on the link below — the police have sent the video out for enhancement but they were not able to find anything further than is on the video. But we’ve got many tech savvy people in the area, so maybe you will be able to help with the video clip.

For example, run the video full screen and take some screen shots at the key moments, zoom in, look at the car (hoping for an ID on make/color) and the person and if you can help identify, immediately call the police and let me know.

 

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How many assisted living facilities does Tredyffrin Township need/want? Is the idea “build it and they will come”?

Another proposal for an assisted living facility in Tredyffrin Township is on the Planning Commission agenda for Thursday, December 20 – this time its Russell Road in Paoli.

My first thought is how many assisted living facilities is enough?  For many years, the township only had one – Highgate at Paoli Point with 80 apartments.

Then came the community battle over the long-abandoned Jimmy Duffy property on Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn and the subsequent construction of Daylesford Crossing, a 3-story assisted living facility by Sage Senior Living which opened August 2015 with 93 apartments.

The approval for the Daylesford Crossing project was a long, drawn out process in 2012 which required a text amendment to zoning to permit senior living facilities as a by-right use in C-1 (commercial) zoning.  It was argued at the time that the zoning change to C-1 was ‘spot-zoning’ to accommodate this specific project. Others, including myself, questioned what this change would mean for future C-1 development in the township.

Meeting with success with the development of Daylesford Crossing, Sage Senior Living is building Echo Lake at Atwater in the western part of Tredyffrin Township. Echo Lake’s senior living is a massive 3-story, 250-apartment property with 160 independent living apartments and 90 assisted living and memory care apartments, set to open in January 2019.

And then we have under construction in Devon (close to Whole Foods) Brightview Senior Living, the gigantic 450+ ft. long, five-story, 55-ft high building totally 181,000 sq. ft. on E. Conestoga. (As a reference point, Daylesford Crossing on Lancaster Ave. is approx. 80,000 sq. ft.). When completed Brightview Senior Living will have 196 beds.

During the last six years, the township has grown from one assisted living facility (Highgate at Paoli Pointe) to four – Daylesford Crossing, Echo Lake and under construction Brightview.  Developers are flocking to the township with their assisted living proposals.  Earlier this year, the township Planning Commissioners reviewed an assisted living facility proposal for the Aquilante Catering property on Cassatt Road.  The 300 bed project was met with an organized effort of neighbor opposition and the plans appear to have been withdrawn.

Now, this coming week finds another proposed assisted living facility in front of the Planning Commission. Solera Senior Living has submitted a preliminary land development project for Russell Road in Paoli. Zoned C-1, the applicant wishes to demolish two existing office buildings (Synthes), consolidate three separate parcels and construct a 3-story, 116 bed assisted living facility. For those that may not know – Russell Road connects to Maple and Old Lancaster Avenues. Another developer seeking to build an assisted living facility in the township as a ‘by-right’ use in C-1 zoning. 

Unlike the location of Daylesford Crossing on 4-lane Lancaster Avenue, Russell Road is a narrow residential street in Paoli.  The proposed 3-story assisted living facility on Russell Road would be at higher elevation than the residential homes which sit in the valley below the planned construction.

Russell Road has no curbing and its resident’s battle major stormwater issues every time its rains – I cannot imagine how a large assisted living building and the associated additional stormwater runoff could possibly be managed. In addition to stormwater problems, placing a massive assisted living facility in the middle of this community is going to threaten the quality of life for the neighborhood, change its character and increase traffic.

There are many reasons that I do not support an assisted living facility at the Russell Road location but an obvious question should also be asked – does the township really need another one of these facilities?  Daylesford Crossing is not fully occupied and it opened over 3 years ago – plus Echo Lake opens next month and presumably Brightview sometime in 2019.  When is enough – enough?  Or is it a case of “build it, and they will come”?

Another factor that needs to be considered with these proposed redevelopment projects (and sadly one that is often overlooked) is our local volunteer fire companies and emergency responders.  Already burdened with staffing and funding needs, how are they supposed to keep up the increased demands of these assisted living facilities? Is Paoli Fire Company and Berwyn Fire Company notified when these types of land development proposals are under consideration?

Here’s the agenda for the Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, December 20,  7 PM at the township building.

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Updates: BAN the Digital Billboard, CHS Class of 2019 to wear black, Preliminary budget 6.1% tax increase …

The BAN the Digital Billboard in Paoli campaign is in a holding pattern – the community has gone several days without a stolen lawn sign. The stolen BAN sign count currently stands at 93 (value of $700!) At the last supervisors meeting during the citizen comment period, several homeowners spoke out about the stolen signs and the proposed digital billboard.  A stalemate ensued and we were told it was a legal matter and/or there was no movement.

All of this is very interesting, given that the public was told in October that there was a ‘draft agreement’ regarding the digital billboard. I’m confident that the battle is far from over — there are 3,500+ signatures on the anti-digital billboard petition and additional BAN signs waiting to go up.  In January, the majority on the Board of Supervisors shifts for the first time in township history from the Republicans to Democrats and Republican Heather Greenberg will no longer be chair. In the words of Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changin’” …

During the last few days, I have received a couple of emails regarding the T/E School District that are of interest. The first is about the color of the Conestoga High School graduation gowns. Historically, the graduation gowns at CHS have been white and maroon but it looks like a break with tradition is afoot – the Class of 2019 will all wear black. The transgender graduates were cited as the reason to eliminate the 2 colors but oddly, the senior photos were already taken in the white and maroon gowns.

I received an email from resident Ray Clarke with the first line, “Time to pay attention to the deliberations on West Valley Road at the TESD offices …” which got my attention. Ray writes,

There are two important TESD Committee meetings next week.  Not final decisions, but windows into early thinking and opportunities to influence the evolution of the education program and the spending of millions of dollars of taxpayer money.

On Monday at 7pm, the Finance Committee  will agree parameters for the borrowing of $30 million to spend on capital items such as air conditioning the elementary schools and (in part) expanding the high school (see below).  They will also take a look at the preliminary budget which calls for: a spending increase of $9 million (6.25%), a total tax increase of 6.1%, including a special education tax increase of 3.6% ($4.1 million).  Special education expenses in 2017/18 increased by $4.6 million over 2016/17, but it’s not clear how that can translate to such a large tax increase above the 2.3% inflation index.  It’s noteworthy that this is proposed in an environment where inflation, social security increases, etc. are about 2.5%.  History has shown that a motivated School Board can work to ameliorate the impact on taxpayers, but this absolutely requires community vigilance. (Click here for agenda).

On Tuesday at 7pm, the Facilities Committee will take a first look at possible designs for the Conestoga High School expansion.  Options being reviewed are “Courtyard” and “Atrium” designs for an expansion of the school to the east along Old State Road, and two options for expansion of parking to the woodland to the north.  No information on costs until decisions among the options are made and costed, but it is maybe noteworthy that $4.6 million of otherwise needed projects are to be included in the overall project – likely to total in the tens of millions of dollars.  Construction to occur from March 2020 to August 2021. (Click here for agenda).

An important time for our school district and hopefully the community will be accordingly engaged.

A preliminary budget with a tax increase of 6.1% to the homeowners!  What!? I understand that this is in the preliminary discussion stages but still, that is staggering.  Ray is absolutely correct, the community needs to get engaged. This will be the fifteenth year in a row of school tax increases and will likely mark the largest tax increase in that same period!

As I updated my chart of T/E School District yearly tax increases (2004-05 was the last zero tax increase year!), what would school officials give for the perennial increase? Increased enrollment (?) rising pension, contractual and special-education costs – state and federal mandates?  Instead of being told each year that the average tax increase is some number like $123 (and frankly, I’ve never been able to find the person with the ‘average’ tax increase), how about looking at how much this yearly tax increase has cost the taxpayers for the last fifteen years!

Clearly, the handwriting is on the wall and school taxes are set to rise … again! Guess the question is, can the school district officials bring down the preliminary budget increase of 6.1%? And with the high school expansion plans on the horizon, how does the school board plan to pay for the capital spending project? New bond initiatives?

  • 2019-20: Preliminary budget indicates 6.1%
  • 2018-19: 2.42%
  • 2017-18: 3.2%
  • 2016-17: 3.6%
  • 2015-16: 3.81%
  • 2014-15: 3.4%
  • 2013-14: 1.7%
  • 2012-13: 3.3%
  • 2011-12: 3.77%
  • 2010-11: 2.9%
  • 2009-10: 2.95%
  • 2008-09: 4.37%
  • 2007-08: 3.37%
  • 2006-07: 3.90%
  • 2005-06: 1.40%
  • 2004-05: Zero Tax Increase
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Theft of ‘BAN the Digital Billboard’ signs from private property throughout Tredyffrin — At Least 60 Signs Stolen

This is the post I didn’t want to write …

I have lived here for many years and I have never seen a community and its residents so united on any single issue as they are in their opposition to the proposed digital billboard in Paoli! The strong anti-digital billboard sentiment was the reason that the social media campaign was mounted – Change.org petition (over 3,300 signatures), dedicated Facebook page and a GoFundMe account to help offset the price of BAN the Digital Billboard print materials and lawn signs. Through generous donations of residents two hundred and fifty signs were ordered and delivered in early November.

Not wanting to risk people accidentally picking up the BAN lawn signs with the political campaign signs post-election, I waited until after November 6 before distributing. After notifying residents that I had the signs, the decision was made to initially only place on private properties. I hand delivered the signs to make certain that they were safely in place. Since Election Day, approximately 100 signs were put on private property throughout Tredyffrin Township – Paoli, Malvern, Devon, Berwyn and some went to Easttown.

A few days after posting BAN lawn signs, I was notified by residents that a few had disappeared. I didn’t think much about it and quickly replaced the signs. However, by the time we got to the second week in November, it was becoming obvious that many signs were gone. The phone calls and emails were picking up from residents upset that their signs were taken – and then two signs were stolen from my own property.

As the numbers in missing BAN signs grew throughout the township, it was clear that this was not a teenage prank but rather trespassing, vandalism and theft of private property. I filed a police report as did at least two others. I did a drive around and put together a list of stolen signs, street by street. (Remember I knew the locations because I had placed the signs myself).

The initial list of stolen BAN signs was forwarded to Tredyffrin Police Chief Beaty on Friday, Nov. 16, about ten days since the first signs went up. The list of stolen BAN signs has continued to grow; to date at least 60 signs stolen (and in less than three weeks!) The value of the stolen signs is over $500.

That’s right – In less than three weeks the BAN the Digital Billboard signs have all but disappeared — trespassing, vandalism and theft of personal property. This is not a joke – 60 signs have been stolen!

Residents who have had their BAN signs stolen are extremely upset. There are very few ways that the public can make their opposition to the proposed digital billboard known – many have called or written supervisors and township officials, signed and shared the Change.org petition and then in the last few weeks put up the lawn signs on their private property to show their opposition

If you look around the township, you will see left over political campaign signs, real estate signs for new developments that are not in the township, signs looking for Kraft bus drivers, firewood and painting advertising signs – you name it – you will see these signs are all over in public areas of the township. Those signs are not placed on private township resident’s property and yet they remain untouched, some standing for months on end.

And here we have at least 60 signs on private property of township tax payers – and they are all stolen.

One resident on Conestoga Road who filed a police report for theft of their Ban the Digital Billboard lawn sign asked me for a replacement sign which I delivered. Fearing the same outcome as the old BAN sign, those homeowners actually went to the hardware store and bought wooden stakes to secure their replacement sign – to see if that would dissuade the trespasser from coming on their property again.

Many of the folks who have had signs stolen are older and some live alone. One resident, who lives alone, said that it scared her that someone had come onto her private property just 10 feet from her front door and stole her two BAN signs.  But again – because this township resident so strongly opposes the proposed digital billboard she too requested (and I delivered) two replacement yard signs.

To be clear, most of these 60 stolen signs were located on private property – removed from the front yards of homes throughout Tredyffrin Township.

My home telephone number is on the BAN the Digital Billboard signs. As  result, I have answered countless phone calls and emails from residents all seeking information and update on this important issue. The public was kept in the dark about the proposed digital billboard for well over a year and now that that the issue has surfaced residents want and expect updates.

Last Monday I went to Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting seeking answers, updates, something, anything! During the citizen comment section, I read a prepared 3 page statement – about the township-wide theft of the BAN signs and asking for an update on the digital billboard.

Residents have no idea where our township supervisors actually stand on the proposed digital billboard with the exception of newly elected supervisor Mark Freed. Mark (who was in the audience) and his opponent Judy DiFilippo answered questions before the election. I posted the answers on Community Matters – and both candidates responded opposing the proposed digital billboard.

At the meeting, the supervisors remained silent with no response to the stolen signs or to my request for an update on the proposed digital billboard. To his credit, supervisor Paul Olson did ask me “who did I think was taking the signs” – I sidestepped the question with a response of “who” had the most to lose from the BAN the Digital Billboard campaign. Several times I commented that the theft of private property is not a joke – one supervisor (who will remain nameless) had a smirk on his face the entire time suggesting that he found the issue amusing.

Sadly, I can report that my statement and questions to the supervisors regarding the proposed digital billboard elicited no response.The township solicitor once again stated that the public would be given advance notice when the digital billboard was back on the agenda.

Let’s not forget that it was the solicitor who announced that there was a draft agreement between the township and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising regarding the digital billboard. As I stated at the meeting, there are over 100 BAN yard signs remaining in my garage – when I feel that it’s safe they will begin to reappear.

The Tredyffrin Township Police Department is now actively involved in the investigation. If you have had a sign stolen, Police Chief Beaty suggested folks call the police number (610-647-1440) and an officer will respond to take the report.

The BAN the Digital Billboard campaign and the theft of yard signs may seem like a joke to some or at least to one supervisor — but I assure you that the anti-digital billboard sentiment of this community is not going away!  Although frustrated and disappointed, we will continue to fight back!

———————————————————–

For those that are interested, here’s the list by street of signs stolen. Please let me know if you know of others and I will add to the list.

  • Swedesford Road – 4 signs (including 2 on my personal property)
  • Biddle Road – 1 sign
  • Valley Road – 3 signs
  • Valley Road – 2 signs
  • Central Avenue – 8 signs
  • Maple Avenue – 4 signs
  • Russell Road – 4 signs
  • Old Lancaster Ave – 2 signs
  • Glen Ave – 1 sign
  • Old Eagle School Road – 2 signs
  • Conestoga Road – 2 signs
  • Bear Hill Road – 5 signs
  • Lancaster Avenue – 6 signs
  • Valley Forge Road – 1 sign
  • Valley Forge Road – 1 sign
  • Upper Gulph Road – 4 signs
  • 50 BAN Signs stolen in Tredyffrin Township + 10 Signs stolen in Easttown Township
  • TOTAL of 60 BAN Signs Stolen in 3 weeks
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BAN the Digital Billboard in Paoli Yard Signs + 3,100 Signatures on Change.org Petition

 

The BAN the Digital Billboard in Paoli yard signs arrived and are finding homes primarily on private property until post-Election (Otherwise, they are lost in the sea of political campaign signs).

The allocation of the lawn signs began with GoFundMe donors living in single family homes. One such location is a beautiful property on Grubb Road in Malvern – the owners support the ban the digital billboard campaign and requested a sign. I delivered and placed the sign at the driveway’s edge; a perfect location with no political signs in sight.  Sadly, the BAN yard sign was stolen from this private home three days later. Troubled by the action but undeterred, the owners have requested two more BAN signs.

The Change.org petition continues to gain daily supporters – to date there are 3,100 signatures of those who oppose the digital billboard. In addition to local residents expressing their opposition, I am fielding calls from Ardmore to Villanova. Many residents are concerned that if Tredyffrin Township supervisors fall to the demands of Catalyst Outdoor Advertising CEO Thaddeus Bartkowski, it will simply be a matter of time before the digital billboards dot the entire Main Line.

Remember, this proposed welcome to Tredyffrin Township monument is actually two 20-ft. high blinking billboards with a reflecting pool to be located on the small site where the Clockworks building currently stands. 

Although certain township supervisors would have the public believe otherwise, there is no financial gain for Tredyffrin Township and its taxpayers if this proposed digital billboard is approved. Township solicitor Vince Donohue stated at the last supervisors meeting that this proposed digital billboard is income neutral. Catalyst is not purchasing the property (no transfer tax) he is leasing the property — no additional money coming to the township for this digital billboard!

People ask me what they can do to help … write an email to the Board of Supervisors, BOS@tredyffrin.org, sign the Change.org petition, contribute to GoFundMe and most importantly,share the digital billboard information with neighbors and friends and plan to attend Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting  (when the digital billboard appears on the agenda).

Please contact me at tredyffrincommunitymatters@gmail.com for a yard sign if your home or business is in a traffic visible location. Also email if you would like a pdf of the BAN the Digital Billboard flyer for distribution.

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Tredyffrin Special Election Supervisor candidates – Where do they stand on the digital billboard, historic preservation ordinance and transparency? Know before you vote!

How many of you know that there is a special election on November 6 to fill an at-large seat on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors? And that for the first time in township history, both candidates running to fill the vacancy are former supervisors! 

The last time that there was a special election on the ballot in Tredyffrin Township was in May 2011; a highly contested race between Mike Heaberg (R) and Molly Duffy (D) to fill an interim supervisor seat, as a result of Warren Kampf’s election as PA State Representative. If you recall, the special election results were so close that the winner’s name changed when malfunctioning voting machines required ballot hand counting. Ultimately, Heaberg was declared the victor and in the general election match-up race the same year, he won a regular 4-year term.

Now seven and a half years later, township residents will be choosing a supervisor in the special election on Nov. 6. In the sea of political campaign lawn signs are a couple of locally familiar names – Republican Judy DiFilippo and Democrat Mark Freed are the special election candidates running to fill the vacated at-large seat on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors.

Republican Sean Moir, a second term supervisor abruptly resigned last month, having moved from the township and therefore no longer eligible to serve. The term for the vacated seat runs through 2019. The good news for residents is that both DiFilippo and Freed are seasoned township supervisors – Judy served for twenty years, six as its chair and Mark completed one four year term (2014-17).

Whoever wins the upcoming election will determine the party majority on the Board of Supervisors. With the departure of Moir (R), there are three Republicans (Heather Greenberg, Paul Olson and Trip Lukens (and three Democrats (Murph Wysocki, Matt Holt and Kevin O’Nell) currently serving. Because so often local township votes come down on party lines, the impact of who fills the seventh seat could be significant and if Freed wins, it will mark the first time in township history for a Democrat-majority board of supervisors.

The township and its residents is embroiled in a serious issue that would forever change the landscape and village feel of Paoli – the proposed digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. I remain troubled that as a community we were kept in the dark for 18-24 months while township supervisors discussed the proposed digital billboard. The public only learned at the 11th hour with the township solicitor Vince Donohue using words like “negotiations” and “settlement agreement” in advance of the Catalyst presentation. I, like many others took that to mean that the digital billboard was a fait accompli.

With nearly 2,500 signatures showing support for the Change.org petition to “BAN the Digital Billboard in Paoli”) and a GoFundMe exceeding its goal, the community is fully engaged.  The laws signs are scheduled for delivery this week!

It is critical that voters know where special election supervisor candidates DiFilippo and Freed stand on important township issues –  the proposed digital billboard, historic preservation ordinance and transparency in local government. The candidates received 3 questions from me and were asked to respond in 100 words or less to each question. The following are the questions and the candidate responses, in the order received.

Question #1: As you are aware, the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors is entertaining a proposal to construct a digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. in Paoli. The community has been told by the township solicitor that Catalyst Outdoor Advertising will initiate legal proceedings if the digital billboard is not approved. If you are elected before the vote occurs, how will vote and why.

Candidate Judy DiFilippo (R) response: I do not support the proposal by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising to construct digital billboards at the Route 252/Lancaster Avenue intersection.  In addition to the concern for safety of the traveling public, in my opinion, the mass of the signs proposed is not appropriate on that site. They do not reflect the overall aesthetic desired in Tredyffrin and do not respect the existing structure and its significance. If there is a deficiency in the Township’s sign ordinance relating to digital signs, a moratorium should be considered on any future applications for digital billboard signs until the ordinance is corrected.

Candidate Mark Freed (D) response: I oppose the Catalyst digital billboard proposal.  This billboard is wrong for Tredyffrin Township and would result in the destruction of a valued historic resource.  I have opposed the billboard since the concept was first floated by Catalyst when I was on the Board of Supervisors. I advised both my fellow Board members and Catalyst of my grave concerns.  I have not seen anything in the recent presentations to change my opinion and remain opposed to Catalyst’s proposal.

Question #2: Unlike most Main Line townships, Tredyffrin does not currently have a historic preservation ordinance. Please comment as to whether or not you would support such a township ordinance and why.

Candidate Judy DiFilippo (R) response: The Township has an award-winning 2003 Historic Resource Survey that lists hundreds of historic buildings and it explains the historic and/or architectural significance for each.  Valley Forge National Historical Park lies within Tredyffrin. We have a significant link to the founding of our country.  We should be proud to share that history.  I support the creation of an ordinance that appreciates and protects our most significant historic resources. Pennsylvania’s Municipalities Planning Code and Chester County’s Planning Commission have tooIs available to help us do that, including adaptive reuse.  We can protect historic resources and still respect an individual’s property rights.

Candidate Mark Freed (D) response: I support a historic preservation ordinance that protects our Township’s valued historic resources.  We must recognize Tredyffrin’s rich historic heritage.  We must also be mindful of the rights of the owners of historic resources. I understand that the Historical Commission has proposed an ordinance amendment that would prohibit the demolition of designated historic resources unless reviewed by the Historical Commission and approved by the Board of Supervisors at a public hearing. This amendment would prevent the issuance of over-the-counter demolition permits that have resulted in almost immediate demolition of our historic resources.  It would be a significant step forward.

Question #3: The support for openness and transparency in local government often appears on candidate campaign literature. What does it mean to you for local government to be open and transparent? Please be specific.

Candidate Judy DiFilippo (R) response: Transparency means you abide by the Sunshine Law. Certain matters dealing with Township personnel or pending litigation can be discussed in Executive Session by the Board and the Solicitor. When Executive Session meetings are held, it is announced during the Public Meeting. All Township Commissions, Advisory Councils, and Boards must abide by the Sunshine Law as well because their decisions and recommendations also impact the Township.  Open discussion by the Board and with the public is the only place for decision-making. The public should be able to rely upon that and upon the trust given to the individuals they elect.

Candidate Mark Freed (D) response: To me, openness and transparency mean providing the public with information in a timely manner, giving the public the opportunity to express their views at public meetings and elsewhere, listening respectfully, responding forthrightly, and letting the public know that their voices have been heard and respected.  They mean being clear and direct with the public about the Board’s decision-making process.  They mean remembering that Board members serve the public.

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2,300+ Change.org petition signatures, GoFundMe exceeds goal & State Rep Warren Kamp (R) & Democrat opponent Melissa Shusterman make statements opposing digital billboard in Paoli!

The community’s voice of opposition over Catalyst Outdoor Advertising’s proposed digital billboard in Paoli continues to grow louder! After hearing that our Tredyffrin supervisors were considering the digital billboard proposal at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave (and demolishing the historic Clockworks building) my social media campaign to inform the community went in to full motion. And based on the overwhelming response, you have to believe that the Board of Supervisor Chair Heather Greenberg and her fellow supervisors are getting the message —  residents do not want the billboard or the Clockworks building destroyed in the process.

Over the years supervisors have lamented that they don’t hear from the public – Not the case this time! Over 2,300 people have signed the Change.org petition opposing the digital billboard. (If you oppose this proposed digital billboard and have not signed the petition, please join us by clicking here)

Reasons given when signing the Change.org petition range from safety and concern for distracted drivers to changing the small town appearance and not wanting to see another historic building destroyed in our community. Tredyffrin resident Jennifer Whip left this comment when signing the petition; “Tearing down an Okie building to put up a digital billboard is a double negative. We are willing to tear down a beautiful, historic building in order to put up an ugly, distracting billboard at a dangerous intersection in an era of too much distracted driving. We are privileged to live in a beautiful community that has learned to use and repurpose its historic buildings for the benefit of generations to come. No one is going to cherish a billboard.”

The GoFundMe exceeded its initial goal of $1,000 in less than four days! As a result of the community’s generous contributions, lawn signs to “BAN Digital Billboard in Paoli & Save Historic Clockworks Building” have been designed and ordered and will arrive late next week.  Based on the number of people who have asked me for a sign, a second order may be needed. Printed material will also be available starting next week. If you are interested and able to contribute, you can find the GoFundMe link by clicking here.

In addition to Savvy Main Line and Main Line Neighbors recent articles about the community push-back over the digital billboard under consideration, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Erin McCarthy called for an interview and photos were taken in front of the Clockworks building. For those that remember the Covered Wagon Inn saga, it was déjà vu standing in front of another of our historic township buildings with hopes for a similar outcome! Taking the photo at 4 PM, the Inquirer photographer received an up close and personal idea of the congestion of this intersection – and that’s without the construction of a 20 ft. high digital billboard and its blinking messages!

With the mid-term election coming up in 2-1/2 weeks, the local political campaigns are in overdrive – I was surprised to learn that the community effort to stop the digital billboard and save the Clockworks building was recognized by PA State Representative Warren Kampf (R) and his opponent Democrat Melissa Shusterman on their Facebook campaign pages. Typically Warren Kampf has not weighed in on local supervisor issues, but is making an exception in the case of the digital billboard, opposing it 100%

On her Facebook campaign Facebook page,  PA State Representative Democrat opponent Melissa Shusterman is also clear in her opposition to the digital billboard under consideration by our township supervisors.

If there was any question or doubt as to where the community stands on the issue of the digital billboard and the demolition of the historic Clockworks building — Tredyffrin township supervisors should be receiving the message loud and clear!

There is an important Special Election on the November 6 ballot — registered voters in Tredyffrin Township will be choosing an at-large supervisor to fill a vacated seat on the Board of Supervisors.  Given the current situation with the proposed plans for a digital billboard, lack of historic preservation ordinance and transparency issues, the selection of the new supervisor is extremely important to this community!

In my next blog post, I will discuss the supervisor candidates, Judy DiFilippo (R) and Mark Freed (D). and offer their responses to three timely questions which I posed.

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Tredyffrin Township’s neighbor Phoenixville didn’t want Digital Billboards – The town stood up to Catalyst Outdoor Advertising and won!  Why can’t we do the same?

Aside from the fact that Catalyst Outdoor Advertising has been in discussion with the township supervisors for 18-24 months regarding the proposed digital billboard at the Clockworks location without the community’s knowledge – there’s the threat of litigation that the township solicitor and supervisors are touting as a reason that the community needs to go along.  The implication is that the township could not win against Catalyst because seemingly no one can.

Should our community be held hostage over an electronic billboard ‘welcome’ monument that no one wants and the loss of a historic building over the threat of litigation – an absurd argument! But further – facts do matter – Catalyst Outdoor Advertising does not always win as some would have us believe.  We need to look no further than to our neighboring Phoenixville Borough to show us how they stood up when it counted!

A few years ago, the Phoenixville Borough found itself in a similar situation as the Tredyffrin Township community, not wanting digital billboards that Thaddeus Bartkowski III and his billboard company Chester County Outdoor (now known as Catalyst Outdoor Advertising) was proposing.

Back in 2011, Bartkowski used the same argument with Phoenixville as they are now doing with Tredyffrin – claiming that our zoning ordinance was illegal.  But herein lies the difference – the Phoenixville community didn’t want electronic billboards and the Phoenixville Council members fought back on their behalf.  In May 2014, Chester County Court judge dismissed Bartkowski’s zoning ordinance lawsuit against Phoenixville as detailed by the Daily Local article “Billboard baron loses fight over Phoenixville zoning”.

Just goes to prove that the little guy doesn’t have to finish last – if Phoenixville Borough can stand up to Catalyst why can’t Tredyffrin?


UPDATE:  In less than a week since I created the Change.org petition, “BAN the Digital Billboard” we are now at nearly 2,000 people opposing the electronic billboard and the demolishing the historic Clockworks building! Community is voicing its opinion loudly.  If you haven’t yet signed, click here for link.

UPDATE:  We need “BAN the Digital Billboard & Save the Clockworks Building” lawn signs. There’s a GoFundMe with a goal of $1,000 for the sign order – we’re over half way there with $440 to go — can you help us get to the finish line so we can order the signs? We need to place the order, no donation is too small and can be made anonymously.  Click here for the link.

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Change.org BAN Digital Billboard petition: Over 1,400 signatures — GoFundMe & Yard Signs Next

Since launching the social media campaign less than 5 days ago to bring awareness to the proposed digital billboard in Paoli, the response from the community has been overwhelming. Thank you Caroline O’Halloran for updating readers in the latest issue of Savvy!

The Change.org petition has garnered over 1,400 signatures from people opposing the proposed digital billboard. The ‘welcome to Tredyffrin Township’ digital billboard monument planned for the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. in Paoli would include the demolition of the historic R. Brogard Okie (“Clockworks”) building. The opposition to the proposal is significant – with comments ranging from safety concerns to the destruction of a historic building. (Remember folks, Tredyffrin Township is the township on the Main Line without a historic preservation ordinance of protection!)

One of the more disturbing issues with this proposed digital billboard is the fact that the public was kept in the dark for 18-24 months as the Board of Supervisors entertained the Catalyst Outdoor Advertising proposal. As I have repeatedly said, the public does not need to be involved with the details and decisions of all township business. However, I find it incredulous that something as significant as a digital billboard proposed for one of the busiest intersections in the township (41,000 cars daily) was not presented to the public until the 11th hour with a threat of a lawsuit.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the supervisors to have engaged the public from the beginning – to get a pulse from the community on this important and landscape-changing issue? How often have we seen taglines from political candidates touting support for transparency in local government? 

Sadly, since launching my BAN Digital Billboard campaign, some of the supervisors are now responding with statements to residents that the proposed digital billboard is “now in the hands of the Solicitor” and that the Change.org petition is “unsupported by data and/or are inadvertently misleading” and that digital billboards are actually safe. Really? Maybe digital billboards are safe if they are on Interstate 95!

One of the supervisors refutes my claim on the petition that there is no financial gain for the township — he states that “the proposed project will generate real estate taxes”. Let’s be real clear, the owner of the proposed digital billboard location (1819 Lancaster Avenue) already pays real estate taxes. The property is not changing ownership, it’s a lease agreement with Catalyst.

Also interesting to note that when responding to residents and attacking the Change.org petition, a couple of these supervisors neglect to address the lack of transparency issue over the proposed digital billboard and conveniently ignore the demolition of a township historic resource. Oversight or misleading?  I guess me and the other 1,400 petition signers will have to decide.

So where to go from here?  A number of residents have asked for BAN Digital Billboard lawn signs and as a result I have created a GoFundMe site with a goal of $1,000. The amount of money raised will determine the number of lawn signs. If you are interested in supporting the BAN Digital Billboard social media campaign, here’s the link for GoFundMe contributions.

It Takes a Community to Stop the Digital Billboard!

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