Pattye Benson

Community Matters 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 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 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 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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  1. Digital Billboards generate tens of thousands of dollars PER MONTH in revenue.

    Has Catalyst agreed to pay the township a percentage of the revenue stream? Has Catalyst offered a percentage of the revenue to the Supervisors?

    What other reason could there be? There is something else at play here.

    1. The only thing that I have read from a supervisor (not heard at a public supervisors meeting) is that if the township doesn’t need the free Catalyst advertising, they can sell it back to the billboard company. However, the supervisor’s response to residents has no dollar amount associated with that ‘sell back’. And yes, I agree that there’s “something else at play here” but the public has not been told what that is — instead it’s now being touted as a ‘legal matter’.

  2. Who is the Solicitor? The Solicitor generally tells the Supervisors what to do based on his/her “legal opinion.” The Supervisors then fall in line behind the Solicitor and use that as explanation for their action/inaction. Solicitors/ Supervisors generally don’t care unless they want to be re-elected or keep the job of Solicitor.

    Does he/she have any personal or business connection with Catalyst or its owner(s)? Digging required here.

    A little digging usually uncovers a connection in cases like this.

  3. anonymous
    seems to be a problem with the supervisors whom residents elected!
    what is procedure to have an historic preservation ordinance? Seems important to have one!

    1. Thank you for your comment about the historic preservation ordinance. I have been fighting this uphill battle for years with the Board of Supervisors. I honestly thought that 3-1/2 years when we almost lost the Covered Wagon Inn for the drive-through at CVS in Strafford, that they would get it. It should have been a watershed moment, the developer did not have to save the Covered Wagon Inn and demolition application was in place. With the help and support of the community, together we had our voices heard and in the end, the Inn was saved.

      However, rather than saying ‘enough is enough’ and enacting a historic preservation ordinance (like every other township) we are now faced with trying to save the Okie ‘Clockworks’ building from those who think that a ‘welcome to Tredyffrin Township’ digital billboard is better! I have spent nearly 20 years fighting for our local history and its preservation — and why is it our local elected officials don’t get it? Development at all costs regardless of the suburban sprawl that it is creating.

    2. E Hannon

      It raises suspicion when Supervisors elected by residents keep us in the dark about something as significant as raising a 20 ft digital billboard at one of the busiest intersections in our community. After working on it for 18 to 24 months, why did they wait until signing for public knowledge? Over 1700 residents don’t like the
      the way this is being handled. And will remember this come election time.

  4. Almost half way there with $380.00 pledged. Pattye is doing the work. All we need to do is pledge $20.00 to $25.00 each and soon 200 small lawn signs will be seen around the township.

    Donate now or live with the big (digital billboard) sign later.

    1. Thank You! Over 1,700 people have signed the petition to “BAN the Digital Billboard & Save the Okie (“Clockworks”) Building — that was in less than 6 days! For any of the supervisors who think that this proposal is OK, I know that at 1,700 other people think the same way that I do.

      Yes — the next step is the lawn signs and you can donate anonymously! It takes a Community to Stop the Digital Billboard & Save the Okie Building! Can you help with the GoFundMe contribution for the signs. The link is:

      Thank you — this is OUR community, let’s stand together!

    2. Wonderful!!!

      Thanks to all who are donating in reaching the goal of saving our community from digital billboard pollution.

      $505.00 —— more than half way there…..

      Let’s get to $1,000 and get those (temporary) lawn signs up to reinforce the message…. NO DIGITAL BILLBOARDS in our community!!!!!!

      1. Yes!! We’re over fifty percent to meeting the goal to order the lawn signs — please help and remember you can be anonymous if you want!

        The petition has now jumped to 1,790 signatures in less than 6 days — important for the Tredyffrin supervisors to know that that our community (1) says NO to digital billboard and (2) says NO to demolishing the historic landmark Clockworks building! Some of the supervisors thought that we weren’t paying attention or that we wouldn’t care!

  5. The potshots at the Supervisors are tiresome. Contrary to what has been said repeatedly on Community Matters, Tredyffrin Township already has a historic preservation ordinance. It can be found in the Township’s zoning code, Section 208, Article XXIVA,

    Granted, some other communities have ordinances that trade off stronger historic preservation for reduced owners’ rights. We have an ordinance – some may not like it but those of us that respect property rights think it achieves a proper balance between historic preservation and am owner’s right to make decisions about her or his property.

    1. I’m far from an expert on many things but when it comes to whether or not there’s a historic preservation ordinance in Tredyffrin Township, I do know what I’m talking about.

      And yes, you will repeatedly read on CM that there is NO historic preservation ordinance because the township doesn’t have one. The Tredyffrin zoning code you cited is the historic overlay district, “An overlay zoning district as established and applied under this article, designating historic resources within the Township.” This is not an ordinance.

      During 2018, a township historic preservation ordinance a draft historic preservation ordinance has been written and is currently under review. Once it has legal review, it will go to the Planning Commission and ultimately to the Board of Supervisors. What the township does have is an award-winning 2003 Historic Resource Survey of 400 historic properties cataloged (When the township had a HARB I was a member and was on the committee that worked on the survey).

      As president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, we advocate for the preservation and protection of historic buildings in the township — but it is only as advocates because there is NO historic preservation ordinance.

      Again, whether it’s the Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford, the Okie ‘Clockworks’ building, General Howe’s headquarters in Berwyn or my c.1690 house in Malvern — none of these structures are protected from demolition in Tredyffrin Township because there is NO historic preservation ordinance. So No, I don’t need to ‘fact check’.

  6. The historic overlay district is within the Township’s zoning ordinance so it’s a question of semantics, in my opinion. The important point is the current ordinance provides property owners with a specific process and parameters for preserving their historic property but it is at each historic owner’s option, not at the behest of Tredyffrin Township.

    Pattye, you own a historic home and you can use the current law to preserve your home. As I read the zoning code, you merely need to apply to have it added to the map by Tredyffrin and have a restriction placed on your home’s deed.

    On the other hand, some communities’ ordinances are quite restrictive as to historic properties’ uses, design, building materials, etc. Personally, for the government to impose such restrictions on my historic home through such an ordinance is a “taking” which robs me of my existing property rights and may well reduce the economic value of my property.

    I won’t opine on the legal issue of billboard. However, using the current Clockworks property as an example, if the owner could make more money by selling the building for office,retail or other currently permitted use, I would guess they would do so. Apparently, it’s highest value to the current owner is through a sale to Catalyst for use as an electronic sign.

    1. TT Fact check: Catalyst is not purchasing the property – no real estate transfer tax. A 30-yr. leasehold mortgage was signed between the property owner and Catalyst in January 2017.

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