BAN the Digital Billboard

UPDATE: Digital Billboard Battle Not Over – Zoning Hearing Board Mtg on April 25, 7 PM! Your Voice Matters!

Some residents may think that the digital billboard problem has gone away —  The BAN the Digital Billboard campaign may have lost over 100 yard signs to theft but the battle is far from over!  Now is the time for your voice to be heard — the future of Paoli depends on it!

You may recall that Catalyst Outdoor Advertising filed two applications in December with Tredyffrin Township – (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. Tredyffrin Township denied both of these applications. The demolition permit was denied citing an “incomplete application” – the application was missing the signature of Dale Nelson, the property owner.

The other application submitted by Catalyst was for an “electric lamp changeable copy face” for the existing small free standing advertising sign next to the Clockworks building. There is an existing 30-year lease on the small sign between Catalyst and Dale Nelson.

In January, Matt Baumann, Tredyffrin’s Zoning Officer sent Thaddeus Bartkowski a letter denying Catalyst’s application to digitize the current sign on the Clockworks site. On February 22, Bartkowski filed an appeal to appear in front of the Tredyffrin Township Zoning Hearing Board. Catalyst paid $2,000 to appeal the decision of the Zoning Officer and $10,000 to challenge the validity of the township’s zoning ordinance.

On Thursday, April 25, 7 PM at the Tredyffrin Township building, Catalyst will appear in front of the township’s Zoning Hearing Board. 

For months, residents have asked me what they can do about the proposed digital billboard – now is the time to help! Keene Hall at the township building must be standing room only on April 25. Folks, if Catalyst wins this appeal, it will forever change the intersection of Lancaster Ave and Rt. 252.

Important:  Digitizing the current sign on the Clockworks property is a precursor to Catalyst’s next step, which is to demolish the Clockworks building and erect two large 20-ft. digital billboards with a reflecting pool in the middle of Paoli.

Important:  If Catalyst wins their appeal on April 25, the other two billboards in Tredyffrin Township (Rt. 252/Bear Hill Road and Lancaster Ave across from the BMW dealership) are at imminent risk for digitizing.

Please put Thursday, April 25, 7 PM on your calendar and plan to attend this critical meeting! Tell Your Friends, Tell Your Neighbors!

Your Voice Matters Now — the Future of Paoli Depends on it!

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UPDATE: Catalyst Outdoor Advertising Files an Appeal over Paoli Digital Billboard Decision

Just when I thought that the community was home free and that our township would remain free from digital billboards, I find out otherwise!

You may recall that Catalyst Outdoor Advertising (dba “Tredyffrin Outdoor, LLC”) filed two applications in December with Tredyffrin Township – (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. Tredyffrin Township denied both of these applications. The demolition permit was denied citing an “incomplete application” – the application was missing the signature of Dale Nelson, the property owner.

The other application submitted by Catalyst was for an “electric lamp changeable copy face” for the existing small free standing advertising sign next to the Clockworks building. There is an existing 30-year lease on the small sign between Catalyst and Dale Nelson.

Last month 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 included the information about Catalyst’s right to appeal the decision to the township’s Zoning Hearing Board – with a 30-day window to file the appeal.

I learned yesterday that Bartkowski did indeed file an appeal — on the last possible day, Friday, February 22. Yes, just when you thought that the problem was going away, it’s not!  With their deep pockets, Catalyst apparently paid $10,000 to go in front of the Zoning Hearing Board and make their case. The next Zoning Hearing Board meeting is Thursday, March 28 and we will have to wait and see if the Catalyst appeal is on the agenda.

In my opinion, digitizing the current sign on the Clockworks property is a precursor to Catalyst going after the two large 20-ft. digital billboards with the reflecting pool. I believe that should Catalyst win their appeal, the other two billboards (Rt. 252/Bear Hill Road and Lancaster Ave across from the BMW dealership) are at imminent risk for digitizing.

It is my understanding that a 6-month agreement of sale was signed between Dale Nelson (owner of Clockworks property) and Bartkowski on December 3, with an expiration date of June 3. No doubt one of the contingencies contained in the sales agreement is the needed digital billboard approval from the township.

Another point in the story is relates to Dale Nelson’s “available” sign located on the Clockworks property. Nelson is trying to rent the second floor of the building (who knew there was a second floor?).  At this time, the Clockworks store remains open and its’ business as usual.  As the only tenants in the building, their current lease is for the entire building. The owners have not moved and the “clocks sale” does not necessarily mean that the store will relocate.

The battle is not over! And it looks like the remaining BAN the Digital Billboard lawn signs in my garage will be going out for distribution.

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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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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!

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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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