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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BAN Digital Billboard in Paoli!

Digital billboards, electronic billboards, changeable variable message centers – whatever you call them they are the same thing: a huge safety hazard, motorist distraction and an aesthetic catastrophe.

For many of us, the notion of putting a digital billboard anywhere in the township is ridiculous let alone at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. in Paoli! But our Tredyffrin Township supervisors are seriously entertaining a proposal by Catalyst Outdoor to install a large 20 ft. high “TV in the sky” electronic billboard at arguably one of the most congested intersections in the township.

I rewatched the Board of Supervisor meeting from Monday, October 1, paying particular attention to the opening remarks by solicitor Vince Donohue regarding the electronic billboard.  We learned Catalyst Outdoor first approached the township 1-1/2 years ago about constructing a digital “welcome” monument sign at the Clockworks location in Paoli.  According to Donohue, Catalyst CEO Thaddeus Bartkowski stated that Tredyffrin’s “zoning ordinance for outdoor advertising was illegally restrictive” and that as a result, the company was prepared to commence litigation.

The basis for Catalyst’s claim that the township’s outdoor advertising ordinance is illegal is that the “size, height and number of faces” is not consistent on the three township billboards and that restrictions are not enforceable. The three township billboards are located on Bear Hill Road/Rt. 252, Lancaster Avenue across from the BMW dealership and at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. in Paoli.

After Catalyst came to the township with its position regarding the illegalities of the outdoor advertising ordinance (as stated by Donohue) the township entered into “certain settlement negotiations” to consider the proposed digital billboard in Paoli. The solicitor further stated that in the upcoming weeks or months, the township may be entertaining a settlement agreement with Catalyst regarding this matter.

My first thought was just “wow”, how is it possible that all this discussion had been going for so long and the community had no idea. I understand that as residents, we do not need to be kept in the loop on every aspect of township business but it appears wholly unfair that something so important — that will forever change the landscape of Paoli, affect safety, demolish a historic Okie house, etc.  — was not mentioned in public until the September 17 Board of Supervisors meeting.

A thirty year lease arrangement was signed in January 2016 between the property owner (Dale E. Nelson) and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising; no large transfer tax windfall coming to the township. (My guess is that the discussion with the township was well underway before the lease was signed!)

To be clear, the township and its residents do not benefit financially from this proposed digital billboard although the community will be ‘gifted’ with occasional free electronic notices.  In my opinion, there is little gain for the township and its residents should this digital billboard be approved by the Board of Supervisors but a lot to be lost.

A disappointing and discouraging situation; as it now appears that the township/Catalyst discussion has been long ongoing. The supervisor discussion is no longer about the appropriateness of a digital sign but rather has advanced to the design features of the “welcome to the township” monument. If this digital billboard is eventually approved, it’s a legacy that that each supervisor will carry forward.

Since writing my last Community Matters blog post, I have received emails and phone calls from residents all opposing the proposed digital billboard. They oppose the billboard for a multitude of reasons, ranging from safety concerns to the possible demolition of an original Okie house. Contrary to what some of the supervisors may want you to believe, I have heard from NO ONE who thinks a digital sign in the middle of Paoli is a good idea. My guess is those 3 or 4 people who expressed support at the last supervisors meeting (including the Del Chevrolet owner), may just be the only township residents in favor of this proposal.

Many have asked what can they do – I have suggested writing to the township supervisors. Here’s the link to the online form:

http://www.tredyffrin.org/Home/Components/Form/Form/22c4b68e8e5e48e98c1bf8b1f141bb5f/163

For those that know their elected officials, send a personal email or make a phone call. Sadly, several people have reported receiving emails from supervisors with remarks such as “the township is afraid of being sued” or “if we don’t agree to the electronic billboard, it could be worse”.  Worse,  how?  Seems to me a 20 ft. high flashing screen is pretty bad!

As for the threat of a lawsuit?  My response is are the residents of Tredyffrin Township supposed to be held hostage by a sign company?  Why should we be forced to live with a dangerous blinking sign that no one wants?

Because there is not yet a signed agreement between the township and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising is there time for the community to loudly ‘Say No to Digital Billboard in Paoli” and have their elected officials listen?

Would a social media campaign opposing the digital billboard have any chance of succeeding? At this point, it is uncertain but I’m willing to try. I had a logo designed, set up a Facebook page, “Ban Digital Billboard in Paoli” and a Change.org petition.  Here are the links:

Facebook Page Link:  Ban Digital Billboard in Paoli

Change.org Petition Link:   Ban Digital Billboard in Paoli

If we are to stand a chance, all those opposing the proposed digital billboard need to send a loud message to our elected officials. 

Contact township supervisors, leave comments on Community Matters, like and follow the Facebook page, sign the Change.org petition and then send the links to everyone you know and ask them to do the same thing!

Contact me at tredyffrincommunitymatters@gmail.com or by phone 610-644-6759 if you have suggestions or questions.

Scenic America, the only national organization that stands up to the powerful multi-billion dollar outdoor advertising industry, can you help us?!

It takes a community to stop a digital billboard!

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Proposed digital billboard and demolition of R. Brognard Okie building – Tredyffrin Township, is this progress?

The Trust’s 14th Annual Historic House Tour this past Saturday was a huge success, raising over $30,000 for historic preservation and the completion of the Jones Log Barn as the Living History Center at Duportail. We are grateful to the wonderful historic homeowners for opening their beautiful historic homes to the public … and for the generous individuals and company sponsors who make this annual event possible. (Click here for list of sponsors). We thank the sponsors and homeowners for prioritizing the importance of our local history and its preservation. And to the many volunteers and Trust Board members, I say thank you – including sixteen student docents from Conestoga High School who gave up their Saturday afternoon to help!

With the annual historic house tour in the rear view window, I turned on the township’s Board of Supervisors meeting last night to watch a presentation by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising. Catalyst is proposing the installation of a monument billboard in Paoli to ‘welcome’ people to the township. This proposed large electronic sign (similar to the digital billboard on Rt. 202 in East Goshen) is planned for the corner of the busy intersection at Lancaster Avenue and Rt. 252.

Image result for catalyst billboard chester county, pa

I am not a fan of billboards in general and yes, there is currently a small traditional billboard on that corner by the Septa train overpass. Although the Catalyst presentation was wrapped in landscaping plans for the corner, featuring seasonal plantings and offers to provide free advertising for township announcements, events, etc., there is major revenue for Catalyst in these image-shuffling, highly lucrative digital billboards — bringing in many times over the income of traditional billboards.

When the Catalyst presenter named the types of digital advertisers, car dealers topped the list; making the support from a Del Chevrolet representative in the audience no surprise (the dealership is walking distance of this proposed billboard!) By design, these large 20 ft. high digital signs are intended to be attention getting. Our lives are becoming increasingly digitized – these digital screens are popping up everywhere. Have you ever tried not to watch a flat screen TV mounted in a restaurant or public waiting area?

There was not a large audience at the supervisors meeting and a few people, maybe three or four spoke in support of the digital sign (including the Del Chevrolet representative).  However, one resident brought up exactly what I was thinking as I watched the presentation – safety concerns with the proposed digital sign at one of the busiest intersections in the township!

Although safety concerns were quickly dismissed by the Catalyst representative as not a problem, there are many available accident studies about driver distraction as a result of digital billboards that would counter his position.  These digital billboards are extremely bright and are designed to be visible in bright sunlight. With images rotating every few seconds, this type of signage is designed to be eye-catching (read distracting), and they are.

Perhaps an argument could be made for these “televisions on sticks” on long stretches of highways but please don’t try to sell the residents that Tredyffrin Township needs one as a ‘welcome’ monument to our community – in my opinion, a huge TV screen that plays moving ads by the side of the road does not represent our historic 300-year old township.

Aside from my strong aversion to these large computer generated billboards, I have saved the best for last. To accommodate the installation of this large 20 ft. high billboard, Catalyst will need to demolish the historic Clockworks building that is located on the proposed site.

The Clockworks building was chosen as worthy of protection and was included in Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey. The building dates to 1900 and is built in the Colonial Revival architectural style. Although it is not an 18th century toll house, it was built to replicate a toll house which was originally located on the site. The best part of the story is that the building’s design was by none other than famous American architect R. Brognard Okie. The Clockworks building is a complete Okie house (versus an Okie restoration or addition) and is a prized building by many and meaningful in the architectural development of the township.

Three years ago, many helped fight the battle to save the Covered Wagon Inn, the ‘welcome to the township’ building located on the corner of Old Eagle School and Lancaster Avenue. If you now travel west on Route 30, you enter Tredyffrin Township greeted with the beautifully restored 250-year old inn – representative of our local history.

The proposed ‘welcome to the township’ monument on the opposing side of the township in Paoli does not represent our community’s 300-year history. And members of the Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors, the inclusion of field-stone in the digital billboard design does not replicate the township’s historic roots.  (Look again at the Catalyst billboard photo on Rt. 202 above – does that make you think ‘history’?)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for progress and thoughtful development but do we really need or want digital billboards in our 300-year old township? Remember, there are two other traditional billboards, one on Rt. 252/Bear Hill Road and another on Lancaster Avenue across from the BMW dealership — are they next for digital billboard advertising?

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14th Annual Historic House Tour – Saturday Sept. 29, 12 Noon – 5 PM

To those who have sent me emails, text or phone messages that may have gone unanswered, it has been a very busy several months. Between a family reunion, an out-of-town wedding, a first birthday party for granddaughter Audrey in Seattle and a trip to our Port Royal Island, SC house (for those that have asked, Hurricane Florence did miss our 100 yr old ‘little pink house’ in SC) in addition to the management of the Jones Log Barn rebuilding project in Chesterbrook, it’s been crazy!

Squeezed in between all of the activities has been the ‘care and feeding’ of my annual historic house tour. Hard to believe but the 14th Annual Historic House Tour is almost upon us — it’s next Saturday, Sept. 29, noon – 5 PM (tickets available at www.tredyffrinhistory.org) The preview party was held last Sunday at Duportail House and was a wonderful turnout of the historic homeowners, sponsors and community members.  The countdown to the house tour  is on — fingers-crossed, we will have perfect weather for the fourteenth year in a row!  Weather gods, are you listening!?

There’s much going on in the township and the school district and I have a list of issues and topics to discuss as soon as the house tour is over.

Without a historic preservation ordinance in Tredyffrin Township to protect our beautiful historic properties, the annual historic house tour is all the more important!  Local history and its preservation does matter!  Please purchase a house tour and join us as we celebrate historic preservation — another important reason that makes this community special. In addition to Trust Board members and other adult volunteer docents, there will be nearly 20 Conestoga High School volunteers assisting at the house tour. In addition, there will be CHS students playing the piano at Tredyffrin Library for ticket pick-up!

Below is the 14th Annual Historic House Tour poster and the final list of our wonderful house tour sponsors — individuals and companies who make historic preservation a priority!  As president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and chair of the 14th Annual Historic Preservation Trust, we thank them and the generous homeowners who make the annual historic house tour possible.  All proceeds from the house tour go toward the completion of the Jones Log Barn as the Living History Center.

Thank you 14th Annual Historic House Tour sponsors!

 

 

 

 

 

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