BAN the Digital Billboard

Oh No! Catalyst Appeals Digital Billboard Decision to Chester County Court of Common Pleas!

With fingers-crossed I had hoped that Catalyst Outdoor would just accept the denial by Tredyffrin Township and its Zoning Hearing Board for a digital sign in Paoli and just walk away … sadly they did not!

With a thirty day window to appeal the township’s decision, Catalyst Outdoor has just done that – and late this past Friday submitted their appeal application to the Chester County Court of Common Appeals! Now it is no longer in the hands of Tredyffrin Township — it moves to the Common Pleas judges and we wait.  This is so wrong!

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Tredyffrin Township’s Zoning Hearing Board Rules on Digital Billboard Appeal by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising – Thursday, Oct. 24, 7 PM

The Tredyffrin Township Zoning Hearing Board will rule on the digital billboard issue on Thursday, October 24, 7 PM at Tredyffrin Township building.

Catalyst Outdoor Advertising first appeared at a Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting in August 2018 with their proposal to demolish the Clockworks Building and install two large 20 ft. digital billboards with a reflecting pool as the “welcome” to our 300-year old township.

For the last fourteen months, the public has remained committed in their opposition to ‘BAN the Digital Billboard’.  Residents filled the seats of Keene Hall for three Zoning Hearing Board meetings and eloquently delivered their message of “Just Say No” to a digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Avenue in Paoli. My words at the last Zoning Hearing Board meeting were simple, “We are not a community divided” – the community has stood in complete solidarity in its opposition. We do not want a digital billboard. Period.

The final decision rests with the Zoning Hearing Board – the township heard the public and denied the application for the digital billboard and it’s now up to the ZHB to uphold and support. As I understand it, there are two ways this can go on Thursday – either the ZHB upholds Tredyffrin Township’s previous denial of the Catalyst application for a digital billboard and rules against their appeal or … the ZHB rules in favor of Catalyst on their appeal.

If Catalyst loses its appeal on Thursday, they have the right to appeal the decision to the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. If the ZHB rules in favor of Catalyst, the township has the right to appeal the decision.

The digital billboard decision will be first up at the Zoning Hearing Board meeting – 7 PM on Thursday. Residents who sought party status in the digital billboard matter will also learn whether or not it was granted.

The proposed digital billboard is probably one of the most important issues to face our community in recent years – please plan to join me on Thursday at 7 PM, Tredyffrin Township building for the Zoning Hearing Board decision.

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Sen. Andy Dinniman No Fan of Digital Billboards – Shows His Support for BAN the Digital Billboard in Paoli on Facebook

On his Facebook page this morning, Senator Andy Dinniman continues to speak out against digital billboards — and supports our BAN the Digital Billboard in Paoli campaign!  Thank you Senator for standing with the residents of Tredyffrin Township in our opposition; we appreciate your support!

Thank you Senator Andy Dinniman for opposing digital billboards!
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A “Community Not Divided” – The Fate of the Digital Billboard Rests With Zoning Hearing Board – Final Decision October 24

Thank you to the many residents who filled the seats of the township building or stood in the back of Keene Hall last night for the Zoning Hearing Board meeting. Thank you to the many residents who last night (and at the two previous Zoning Hearing Board meetings) eloquently delivered their message of “Just Say No” to a digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Avenue in Paoli.

As the last resident to speak in opposition to the digital billboard last night my words were simple, “we are not a community divided”!  For eleven months, since Catalyst Outdoor Advertising first came to the township with their proposal to demolish the Clockworks building and install two large digital billboards and a reflecting pool, the community has stood in complete solidarity in its opposition. We do not want the digital billboard. Period.

As I said last night, I have lived here for many years and am engaged in community issues. There are always at least two sides to any of these issues, with the ultimate outcome producing winners and losers. Not so on the digital billboard, we are not divided; there is only one side.  Since August 2018, I have spoken to many people on this topic and have yet to find a resident who supports the idea of digital billboard in the middle of Paoli or who thinks it’s a good idea.

As Catalyst Outdoor Advertising attorney John Snyder and the township attorney Tony Verwey had both rested their cases at the July 25 meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board, the special 6 PM meeting last night was dedicated to residents’ comments on the proposed digital billboard. And speak they did, a steady stream of residents speaking out against the proposed billboard, just as other residents had done at the two previous Zoning Hearing Board meetings.  Many residents spoke at these three meetings and not one voice of support for the proposed billboard.  An important community issue, it was however sad to note that not a single township supervisor attended the meeting last night.

So where do we go from here?  After much discussion between the Zoning Hearing Board members, its solicitor and attorneys from the township and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising, a timeline for legal responses from both sides was established. Much of this discussion was difficult to follow but at the end, I asked two questions for clarification; (1) when would the residents who sought ‘party status’ know if it was granted and (2) when would the Zoning Hearing Board make their final determination.

There will be a special meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board on Thursday, October 24 (presumably at 7 PM but not announced). At that meeting, the public will learn which residents receive party status and we will know the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board.

As I said last night to the members of the Zoning Hearing Board, the final decision rests with them– the township heard the public and denied the application for the digital billboard and it’s now up to them to uphold and support.  The public has spoken … this is not a community divided!Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

BAN the Digital Billboard – Last Opportunity to Voice Your Opposition on Thursday, July 25, 6 PM: Public Comment at Zoning Hearing Board Meeting!

To members of our community – On Thursday, July 25 at 6 PM at the Tredyffrin Township municipal building, we have one last opportunity to make our voices heard regarding the proposed digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Avenue in Paoli.

Catalyst Outdoor Advertising first appeared at a Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting in August 2018 with their proposal to demolish the Clockworks Building and install two large 20 ft. digital billboards with a reflecting pool as a “welcome” to our 300-year old township. For many reasons during the last eleven months, the public has remained committed in their opposition.

The starting point for the digital billboard project was Catalyst’s submission of two applications to the township in December 2018 – (1) a demolition permit application for the Clockworks building and (2) an application to digitize the existing small stationary sign.  To the credit of our elected officials and township staff, the public’s opposition was heard and both applications were denied

Undeterred by the denial of their applications, in early 2019, Catalyst appealed the township’s decision on the digital billboard application to the township Zoning Hearing Board. The ZHB heard three hours of testimony on May 30, primarily from the Catalyst attorney. The legal proceeding was continued to July 9 for another lengthy evening of argument from the township attorney in front of the ZHB.

With Catalyst and the township attorneys resting their cases – it’s now up to us, the public! The last Zoning Hearing Board meeting is dedicated to public comment on the digital billboard application. This is it folks, our voices will be the last words heard by the Zoning Hearing Board

Far from dividing, the digital billboard issue has united the community in its opposition.  I am proud of our residents — they have put lawn signs up, shared information, done their own digital billboard research, attended and spoken out at meetings.  We have one more opportunity to deliver our message of opposition on Thursday, July 25, 6 PM and we need standing-room only!

PLEASE SHARE THIS POST with Friends, neighbors, family – the end is in sight and we need to deliver our FINAL voice of Opposition!!

          Your Voice Counts and the Community Matters!Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Battle to Stop Catalyst and BAN the Digital Billboard Continues — Community Has One More Opportunity to Voice Objection, Thursday, July 25, 6 PM

Eleven months in and the digital billboard saga continues …

At the May 30 special meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board, the audience learned after three hours of testimony that the legal proceeding would be continued to July 9.

Unfortunately, as soon as the July 9 date was announced, I knew that I would be on a plane that night – and with nonrefundable tickets there was nothing I could do. For those that have followed along with the BAN the Digital Billboard campaign for the past eleven months, you will appreciate how difficult it was for me not to be in attendance on Tuesday night.

However, the good news is that many people that I know were able to attend and I have received many text messages, emails, phone calls, etc post-meeting making it easier to write this post. And some more good news … the residents will have one more opportunity to make their voices heard at the final Zoning Hearing Board meeting on this matter, Thursday, July 25, 6 PM.  The regular ZHB starts at 7 PM, so that gives us an hour to continue to drive home the point why our community does NOT want a digital billboard!

One of those in attendance at the meeting on Tuesday was my good friend Ray Clark and he kindly provided few written comments from the 3-1/2 hour meeting. (In addition, Ray texted continuous updates throughout the ZHB meeting – so grateful to him!). Here are Ray’s thoughts from the meeting – to others who attended, I welcome your comments:

A few observations from a non-lawyer on Tuesday’s ZHB proceedings hearing the appeal of the denial of a permit for a digital billboard.  The applicant worked hard to focus the discussion on the legal intricacies of their challenge to the validity of the township’s zoning ordinance, while the audience was concerned about the safety and visual impact of placing a distracting, flashing device at a busy and iconic intersection.

A couple of process points.  Dan McLaughlin did a good job of managing the contentious meeting to be fair to all perspectives.  He allowed more residents to apply for standing, since many were prevented from attending round one due to the tornado warning. However, the applicant objected objectionably (!) and arbitrarily to most – at one point saying that he did not believe – with no basis! – one resident who gave a precise distance from his house to the intersection!  I imagine that the ZHB will rule on the standing of all the residents from both meetings at the wrap up meeting on July 25th (6pm).

The witnesses were two: continued testimony from the applicant and Matt Baumann for the township.  I don’t pretend to have followed this closely enough to give an opinion on the legal issues, but there was a lot of discussion about the meaning and applicability of “lighting”, “changeable copy”, “flashing”, “alteration”, “conditional use”, “vinyl wraps”, “backing blocks”, and so on.  Throughout the applicant tried to force the discussion to a word-by-word parsing of the Township denial letter – with some success since Matt acknowledged that the letter had an internal inconsistency.  I don’t recall much discussion of why the ordinance is illegal, maybe that was last time.

The audience seemed to come more prepared than the township Baumann/Verwey team.  Excellent points were made about the lack of applicant studies of intersection safety issues (they relied entirely on PennDoT regulations), the inaccuracy and limitations of the safety studies they did present, the lack of information given to the township to assess the features of the sign, the availability of studies indicating a definite safety issue, and of course the fundamental fact that the sign is DESIGNED to distract attention.

It seems a great pity that commercial interests have the potential to weasel loopholes in township ordinances written at a different time to attempt to foist upon us something that seems to be universally despised and a very real safety risk.

Far from dividing, the digital billboard issue has united the community in its opposition.  I am proud of our residents — they have put lawn signs up, shared information, done their own digital billboard research, attended and spoken out at meetings.  Folks, we have one more opportunity to drive home our message of opposition on Thursday, July 25, 6 PM!  

Always the optimist, I’m going to believe that our Zoning Hearing Board is going to come down on the side of the community on the digital billboard issue.

Your Voice Counts and the Community Matters!

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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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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!Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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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