Digital Billboard Appeal to be continued … until July 9

Thank you to those residents who joined me on Wednesday night for the Zoning Hearing Board meeting. With the tornado warnings and loss of power for many, it was a challenge to attend!

There was bad and good news from the meeting. The bad news is that we sat through three hours of testimony and only heard from the Catalyst attorney John Snyder from Saul Ewing and his two witnesses.  The good news is that the Zoning Hearing Board meeting continues on Tuesday, July 9 and we will hear from the township attorney Tony Verwey from Gawthrop Greenwood and all township residents who wish to comment.

Unfortunately Snyder set a bad tone early in the proceedings by objecting to all but one resident who asked for party standing in the case (including myself), claiming that we would not be personally impacted by the proposed digital sign.

My argument to receive standing was that ‘ALL’ the township residents (and beyond) would be impacted (due to safety concerns in that intersection) and therefore should have standing. Needless to say that argument went nowhere with Snyder.  To the credit of Zoning Hearing Board chair Dan McLaughlin (and much to the chagrin of Snyder) we were told that a determination of “standing” would be decided at the meeting on July 9.   All residents who wish to comment may do so at the next meeting (and you do not need standing to do so!).

Linda Stein from Main Line Media News attended the meeting and gave a review of the proposed billboard and update.  (Thank you Linda for braving the tornado warnings to attend!) To read the full article, click here.  Below are excerpts from the article:

Snyder called on Jesse White, an engineer for Watchfire Signs, a Danville, Ill. company that sells digital billboards to Catalyst, to testify. White explained how the proposed LED billboard would work. Questioned by Snyder, White said LED billboards are “almost like a TV.”

Residents who requested to be a party to the case were permitted to ask questions. Paul Drucker asked White if he thought that 10 images a minute would be a distraction for drivers. Snyder objected to the question and Daniel McLaughlin, the zoning board chairman, asked if Snyder planned to call a witness regarding drivers being distracted.

“No, I don’t think it’s relevant,” said Snyder. His response drew laughter and gasps from the audience, many of whom object to the billboard on the basis that it would distract drivers and make the busy intersection less safe.

Yes, remarkably there will be no safety expert called by Catalyst because they don’t think there is a safety issue for a digital billboard at the intersection Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave!  In my opinion (and in the opinion of many others)  much of the widespread opposition to the digital sign is focused on safety! Also, it also did not escape many in the audience that the ‘expert’ witness Jesse White is a vendor employee of Catalyst!  Certainly does not make that expert unbiased – he even admitted that his company Watchfire Signs would probably have the contract for this digital billboard, if approved!

The other crazy remarks came from Catalyst witness and employee Tim Earle who compared the proposed digital billboard with its constantly changing face to the gas price sign across the street at the 7-Eleven and to the sign at Conestoga High School!  We can only hope that the so-called expert testimony of Earle will be thoroughly examined by the township attorney at the next meeting!

Although I was hoping that the Zoning Hearing Board meeting would resolve itself in one night – the good news is that the public will have a chance to be heard on July 9 and hopefully without the threat of a tornado keeping some home!

Susan Stein closed her article with a quote from me – it accurately sums up my feelings on this proposed digital billboard. Onward and upward to Tuesday, July 9!

After the hearing, Benson said, “The intersection of Routes 252 and 30 in Paoli is no place for a digital billboard. The bright, constantly-changing digital billboard is designed expressly to attract and hold the attention of drivers. I do not support a digital billboard at this location as it will promote distracted driving and affect public safety, especially given the extremely congested intersection.”

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  1. FYI that John Snyder is a local guy – and has coached basketball to T/E kids for a long, long time. Whether Catalyst’s selection of John is a coincidence or not, he is a good guy and is just doing his job. I am but one small voice, but I would not villainize him (if that’s a word).

    I also don’t know that the township attorney is going to necessarily be adverse to Catalyst. He represents the township and the best interests of the township. Having residents there providing reaction to Snyder/Catalyst comments will not sway him in his representation.

    Instead, we should focus on what Catalyst has to do to win its appeal. If they complete those tasks, it’s going to be difficult for the Board of Supervisors to say no. And specifically with the public’s voiced opinions regarding the safety issue, if Catalyst provides data that with all their other billboards there have not been any increase in accidents, then what are we going to offer in response? Beyond opinions of people, I’m not sure we have anything. Whether the Board or the township attorney provides evidence to that effect no one presently knows.

    I’m not trying to make this post ominous, but Catalyst may be making a fairly strong case for the billboard.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    To be clear, Tredyffrin Township already denied the Catalyst application for a digital application. Catalyst appealed the township’s decision which is why it went to the Zoning Hearing Board. The Zoning Hearing Board is a quasi-judicial body and will make a ruling in the case — the matter does NOT go back to the Board of Supervisors. If the Zoning Hearing Board rules in favor of Catalyst, then they will can have a digital billboard. If the Zoning Hearing Board rules against Catalyst and upholds the denial of the township then Catalyst can appeal that decision. At that point, Catalyst would appeal to the next level, which is the Chester County Court of Common Pleas.

    A digital billboard will forever change the township — and will set precedence for the other billboards in Tredyffrin Township — Bear Hill Road/Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave, across from BMW dealership. As you say, “Catalyst may be making a fairly strong case for the billboard” — my response will be that the community/township will make a case against it.

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    rl4life Reply:

    Focusing on the safety aspect of this sign.
    Catalyst is the ONLY player (and a bit one at that) in the digital billboard world that has a sign on a surface street. There is minuscule data for this type on installation.

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  2. When are the taxpayers reimbursed for the time/labor that Catalyst has taken away from Township business? Truly, what right do they have when the Township already said “no”. Catalyst is like a misbehaving child – how many times does the Township have to say “no”?

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  3. I attended the hearing. Obviously, the Catalyst lawyer accompanied by a young Penn Lawyer presented a well researched case with many well planned exhibits and two expert witnesses to prove their theory that the Tredyffrin ordinance did not prevent Catalyst from putting up a changeable movable Digital LED billboard emitting up to 7500 nits with a changing message every six seconds. The light emission would be brighter during the day and lower at night.

    The engineer expert explained there could be many different colors, the sign would be free standing, located in the same spot and within the same measurement. The Catalyst employee expert provided testimony to the current Tredyffrin ordinance (updated in 2004) and all of the currently placed billboards in the township. Catalyst claims “the intent of the legislature” in 2004 was to allow changeable moveable copy. Past Supervisors like Lamina, DeHaven, DiFilippo and Kampf were named in the document offered into the record.

    The Catalyst employee witness claimed there was a digital sign at 7-11 and Conestoga High School. It was the usual legal procedure where the plaintiff attempted to get every piece of evidence into the record for the purpose of appealing another denial. The Catalyst legal team will continue to build the case to give it an opportunity to build the record for an appeal in the Chester County Common Pleas Court.

    The biggest frustration for the audience was the constant objection by the Catalyst lawyer to residents arguing for party status based on their personal injury. The objection was based on .25 mile precedent case used by the Catalyst lawyer. If a resident lived further than .25 miles from the proposed sign, standing was objected to by the lawyer. The Tredyffrin lawyer did not present experts, rarely objected and appeared ill prepared.
    Hopefully, the part two of the hearing gives opportunity to residents to continue to voice their opinions.

    I as a Supervisor Candidate Attorney hope to see more objections and more participation by other township lawyer. There is two sides of this issue. We need to continue to ask for party status, safety concerns and our specific Tredyffrin resident rights.

    The legislative intent of the updated 2004 ordinance specifically speaks to the “Public welfare and safety of the Tredyffrin residents.” The rule of denying party status to those in the future is also absurd based on the severe weather conditions on 5/29/19.

    The lack of a Tredyffrin expert to depose is also concerning. Dear Tredyffrin Supervisors please ask for our legal team to “up their game” or do the legal research to be able to object for the record. There is certainly opportunities for Tredyffrin to object and counter as well as get “our story” on the record. Please represent us to “Ban The Digital Billboard” and save our citizens from unsafe driving/walking conditions and pollution on the stick!

    [Reply]

  4. Pattye,
    If you live more than .5 miles away from the proposed digital sign you do not presumptively obtain standing.
    See Laughman v ZBH of Newberry (PA. Cmwlth, 2009).
    Residents in Paoli Pointe or on Russell Road May have standing since they are close by the sign location.
    You and I and other residents requested party status with objection by Catalyst lawyer.
    If the zoning board denied the application, every objection and document presented by Catalyst becomes apart of the record.
    If Catalyst appeals to the Common Pleas Court all evidence put in the record in the zoning heard board becomes apart of the Common Please Court records.
    The court relies on the information obtained on the record at the lower zoning hearing.
    If residents requesting party status are available they may choose to intervene in any Common Pleas Court appeal.
    If Catalyst is denied at the Common Pleas Court it could appeal once more to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.
    This is just the beginning of a well played strategy.

    [Reply]

  5. The lawyer says what his boss tells him to. What’s he supposed to say, “hell yeah it’s dangerous!”

    It’s just an opinion. If there’s no independent, official study done on these types of billboards, then the other side(us) has to be the complete opposite of catalyst.

    Why not try to get the tredyffrin police to weigh in on distractions while driving? I would bet that they would be on our side. Cant hurt to ask.

    [Reply]

  6. I attended the Zoning Board Meeting on Wednesday night disregarding the tornado warnings. Where was Thaddeus Bartowski from Catalyst? He sent over a legal team from Saul Ewing to split legal hairs to support digital signs that are clearly not wanted by residents of Tredyffrin Township and the region. Thousands of residents have signed a petition to speak against digital signs. Some of us donated funds to purchase small signs to inform neighbors that we can push back on this attack on our love of a green environment and iconic structures. MANY OF THOSE SIGNS WERE STOLEN.
    I am not intimidated by high priced legal talent or “expert witnesses” who are employed by Catalyst vendors.
    It is frustrating that Mr. Bartowski continues to try invade our community with signs that are not welcome. We will not be bullied by an enterprising outsider.
    It is also frustrating that local authorities are not creating sign ordinances to reflect the views of the electorate.

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  7. It seems to me that those who live less than 0.5 miles from the sign, myself included, should be mobilized to attend the meeting on Tuesday, July 9 at 7:00 at the township building. (and don’t assume people even know where that is). How can I help? Does living in Easttown prevent that? What do I have to do to speak at the meeting? Please do not assume that everyone is up to speed on the issue or on any local issues for that matter. That does not mean they do not care.

    [Reply]

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