Pattye Benson

Community Matters

2,300+ 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 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 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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  1. Thank you for helping us hold on to our community. We elect our supervisors to represent ‘US’ the residents. Like you, I don’t understand why we didn’t hear anything about this until now. Why wasn’t the community informed when this proposal for a digital billboard first surfaced, what was it a year ago? I watched the BOS meeting video and the supervisors and township solicitor talking about negotiations and a settlement agreement. WHAT??? No, its wrong! If this billboard goes in, we will never forget who made it happen!

    1. Thank you for comment. To clarify, the discussion between the billboard company Catalyst and the township began somewhere between 18 months and two years ago. I truly do not understand why the public was not told until now when the talk is about a settlement agreement. You watch that BOS meeting video and the billboard presentation and you know that this information isn’t new to those supervisors. The supervisors discuss this welcome to Tredyffrin Twp digital billboard monument as a foregone conclusion; with the solicitor weighing in on a settlement agreement. For me, it certainly was a WOW moment for our local government.

  2. Can this kind of secrecy lead to any kind of removal for a supervisor?

    What is the criteria for impeachment if there is one.

    1. My focus is on having the supervisors provide timely information on important topics that affect our community — they are elected to represent all our collective voices. Waiting 18-24 months to inform the public is simply not OK as this exercise has proven.

      Always the optimist, I want to believe that the leadership of the BOS (Heather Greenberg, Chair and Murph Wysocki, Vice Chair) now understand that by keeping the public in the dark on such an important issue is not useful.

      1. I know you do which is nice but there has to be something written in our township charter that specifies criteria and procedures for impeachment/removal of elected officials right?

  3. Dear Pattye,
    Thank you for your tireless fight to ban the digital billboard.
    This a serious and important issue for Tredyffrin.
    Thank you for your fearless leadership to speak out for Tredyffrin’s Historic Preservation as well.
    Not only do you raise the money, organize the petitions and inform the public, you walk the walk!

  4. With a decline in local news coverage, government secrecy has increased in the past 10 years.

    Lack of transparency by the BOS discourages civic discourse and citizen engagement with government, Officials hope that a frustrated public will simply give up after struggling but failing to find out what is going on.

    Other than filing a lawsuit, a full out public outcry is what it takes to get their attention and to date that hasn’t worked. What will it take?

  5. Reading the last line of the article of the Philadelphia Inquirer, are these words — from Catalyst CEO,

    “It’s up to the board of Tredyffrin to decide what’s best for the community,” Bartkowski said. “We believe the monument is the better option.”

    My response to this quote is that if Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors decide that a digital billboard is ‘best’, they are going against the absolute majority of the residents!!

  6. Sorry , was actually stated it was built in 1948, but that still doesn’t seem to make it a historical building.

    1. According to the 2003 Historic Resource Survey (available on township website) which was completed by Dominique Hawkins, AIA of Preservation Partnership Design and Jean K. Wolf of Wolf Historic Preservation in association with the township’s Historical Architectural Review Board, the property at 1819 Lancaster was designed and built between 1900-1930 in the Colonial Revival style by R. Brognard Okie to replicate an earlier tollhouse which stood on the property. Of the 800 historic properties in the township, approximately half were included in Historic Resource Survey. The information about the individual properties included the historic survey is public and available to the supervisors as well as the digital billboard developer. Just because the developer says the building was built in 1948, and not historic, does not make it so.

  7. The supervisors are corrupt and they will allow this billboard in order to feed the bottom lines of their cronies unless we make a huge stink about it. It should be a campaign issue RIGHT NOW – DEMAND that the candidates, ESPECIALLY the incumbents, promise to VETO any electronic billboards in the Township.
    Tom McCarey

  8. I’m puzzled about who owns what here. Looking at the Chester County land records for UPI 43-9M-160, it’s 0.13 acres. There’s a lease of 0.022 acres of that parcel to “Tredyffrin Outdoor LLC” in 2016 for a “sign lease”. 0.022 acres is 1000 square feet, and it includes half of the road, so it seems like it’s just for a sign along the road. The property is actually owned by a Dale E. Nelson. I haven’t seen anywhere where Mr. Nelson has agreed to lease the rest of the property to the sign company. What am I missing?

    Lease link, if it works:

    1. David, I have a complete title search for the property and Catalyst signed a 30-year leasehold mortgage for the entire property in January 2017. Based on what you provided, you are right, it looks like the arrangement initially was only to lease the sign but my later information shows the entire property (including the current small sign) was leased.

      The Catalyst presentation showed the two digital billboards with welcome monument and reflecting pool located where the Clockworks building currently is — see below
      Click Here for photo from Catalyst presentation

      Interestingly this summer, Dale E. Nelson transferred the property to a Nelson family trust. The only explanation that I have is that perhaps Chester County records are behind in updating.

  9. I am still just totally thrown by how the BOS has handled this. They have been “negotiating” for more than a 18 months before informing the public of anything.
    To what end are they negotiating?
    How do they know what the public wants if they kept them in the dark?
    The main question is are they going to allow this or not? The fact that they are negotiating for 18 months to allow something that the public clearly does not want is freakin insane.
    What “negotiating” is there?
    Either you are going to allow it or not? And to negotiate to allow it without a proper hearing before the public is again freakin insane.
    The other billboards have all received a conditional use approval. The normal process for that is an application to the planning commission and then public hearings before going to the BOS.
    Why is the BOS allowing a litigious BULLY to dictate the terms of play?
    This is our town. They want to sue- let them.
    “I’m sorry Judge the plaintiff hasn’t applied for anything in our township. How can the plaintiff say the ordinance is too restrictive if they haven’t even submitted an application for their plan?”
    HELLO BOS! The “negotiating” has got to stop.
    Tell Bartkowski to pound sand.

    1. Thanks for this comment. Yes, as bad as the proposed digital billboard (with its blinking lights and reflecting pool!) is, I’m equally troubled that this discussion has been going on for 18-24 months without any notification to the public. As I said in an earlier post, the solicitor actually uses the word negotiation in his discussion of the process. And as we learned at the last BOS meeting from Mark Freed (who was on the BOS at the time that Catalyst first came to the supervisors), he doesn’t recall they came in the door threatening a lawsuit — but somewhere along the line from that initial meeting to now, that threat is now real. The public was never informed of any of these ongoing discussions until a after Catalyst filed a writ of summons.

      I keep going back to what the solicitor told me when he called and repeated again at the BOS meeting — that I and the community have not been harmed because the vote has not yet been taken. Although he’s speaking in the legal sense, I do feel that we’ve been harmed. Who is to say where this proposal would be if we had been told and the community could have expressed their strong opposition earlier!?? We will never know what would have happened. I hope that the BOS uses this situation as a point of reflection going forward …

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