Pattye Benson

Community Matters

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 – 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 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!


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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  1. Thank-you for bringing this to my attention. I had no idea.

    Who is the Supervisor who smirked and thinks this is funny? We need to know before his/her re-election comes up.

    1. Agreed. It serves no one to protect the identities of Supervisors who demonstrate contempt or arrogance when citizens voice their opinions.

      I fear the board has already made up its mind. They have a draft agreement. And where there is money changing hands things get sticky. A group of residents in Valley Hills argued pointedly against a proposed apartment building complex on Central Avenue with parking for 300+ cars but the Tredyffrin board passed it anyway. There was no reason for them to pass it other than…you know…
      But those of us who don’t want the billboard should continue to argue against it. There has been some media exposure but showing up at the meetings is important, too.

  2. I live in Paoli Pointe and would like to put a sign out front of Bldg. #3. Having lived on E. Central Ave. for over 30 years and now at Paoli Pointe, I want to show our support.
    Margaret P. hudson

  3. Why do we support Supervisors who don’t serve us? Why do they smirk at citizens who bring serious issues to them that will impact the entire community? Any Supervisor who smirks and laughs at any citizen for any reason should not be a Supervisor.

    1. Agree — and what’s the saying about “elephants never forget”. I may not be an elephant but I’m not going to forget any of the details surrounding the digital billboard or those supervisors who have supported it (regardless of the outcome!).

  4. Smirking is extremely unprofessional and disrespectful. You need to out this person so I don’t accidentally vote for him. Even if I were to agree with all his other views, people like that don’t deserve to be in office.

  5. Supervisors should thank you and/or any resident who brings issues to them, especially one like this because so many are against it. Instead, they laugh at us. That’s just great.

  6. Pattye, this is pathetic news and I am dismayed. I hope this story gets wider publicity — from SAVVY, The Philly Inquirer, Daily Local News, etc.? I hope you contact such sources so they can report on what is going on.
    You have led a terrific community response to this insult to Tredyffrin Township citizens, and I hope the outcome of your efforts is successful.
    Thank you for your efforts.

  7. I am reporting that since adding this blog post, I have heard that two replacement signs were stolen from Old Eagle School in addition to the replacement sign on Conestoga Rd were stolen overnight. The Conestoga Rd. homeowners are the ones that actually added wooden stakes to their sign in hopes of deterring its theft. In addition, one was reported taken on Sugartown Rd. in Berwyn. TOTAL is now 64 stolen BAN signs!

  8. I would like to have a sign on our property (I contributed so the signs could be made). We’re in the Friendship Hill development across from Paoli Point on Bear Hill road. I’ve seen a few signs up in the neighborhood.

    1. Thank you for the update Meredith – will you please report the 2 stolen signs to Willistown Township police department. We need to make certain that all police departments are aware of this situation. Thanks! I’m adding your two signs as ‘stolen’ to my list.

  9. I would like to have a sign at my property please! Shameful behavior by smirking supervisor and BAN sign bandits.

  10. My only reason for adding to this discussion is that it bugs me when only one side of an issue can be discussed. We don’t know if the community is united. We know there are some folks very vocal about this issue, for whatever reason. I doubt it really has anything to do with the, let’s face it, un-remarkable, poorly located house wedged between train tracks, 5 lanes of highway, a 7-11, and a bank. I don’t personally believe it’s a safety issue if you look at how people currently drive, running lights, texting, tailgating, or stacking up in an intersection blocking traffic so you don’t have to wait for one more light.
    Why don’t you hear differing opinions? It’s not smart to identify yourself to an angry mob.

    As far as the signs being removed from private property, I’d suggest checking with the township to see if they are removing them. I know I had put a sign out on my property at my former address and a township employee had removed it and called me to let me know it was was taken because it was a violation of the municipality’s sign ordinance. Who knew….

    1. Not aware of any municipal sign ordinance that prohibits a resident from having a yard sign in their front yard! I am confident that the township is not removing BAN yard signs given that the Tredyffrin Township Police Dept is involved. As for your remark about the proposed digital billboards and reflecting pool at the intersection of Rt. 252/Lancaster Ave. — you or anyone else is welcome to support the proposed billboard and to post on Community Matters. Differing opinions welcomed, just don’t think there are many people that share that sentiment.

    2. I’ve talked to many about this and only one expressed that they don’t care one way or the other. I haven’t encountered one person who is for it. Most ask what they can do to help keep digital billboards out of their neighborhoods. I don’t agree with Pattye that it’s to Supervisor Paul Olsen’s credit that he asked who she thought steals the signs. Any answer is speculative. Makes me question whether he and the Supervisor who smirked know exactly who steals the signs.

    3. I vigorously disagree with the “Not a NIMBY Guy” November 28th posting. “Not a NIMBY Guy” acknowledges already serious safety problems at the Routes 252/30 intersection but somehow concludes, essentially, that since a mess already exists, what’s the harm in screwing things up just a little more? In my opinion, the proper conclusion is the opposite one. The now present safety issues that “Not a NIMBY Guy” cites are precisely the reasons why the billboard proposal is a terrible idea.

      Another matter: if the Township permits this sign, it sets an awful precedent and undermines its existing land use controls. If the supervisors approve this proposed fiasco,how would the Township then go about enforcing its in in-place commercial signs ordinance along Route 30?

  11. Not easy to dispose of 65+ signs without notice. Look in dumpsters behind buildings, notice overflowing trash cans, especially on trash pick up days, ask maintenance workers if they’ve seen discarded signs. Unless the thieves have a personal incinerator, someone will see something. Ask around. Someone knows something.

  12. I disagree with the sentiment that the historic Okie designed house slated for replacement by a digital billboard is “unremarkable,” but then again, I serve on the historic commission in Willistown, and we seek to preserve our architectural heritage. Where is Tredyfrin’s Historic commission on this issue? However, the big issues are light pollution and driver distraction. I have written to our rep in Harrisburg hoping for a statewide ban. Unfortunately people have invested in these offensive billboards. So money is at stake.

    1. Thank you for this comment. I’m president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and owner of a 300+ year old house and it’s a personal embarrassment to me that Tredyffrin Township does not have a historic ordinance. Tredyffrin Township has the distinction of having the most historic resources in all of Chester County and we have no ordinance to protect them. On the other hand, Willistown believes in supporting historic preservation and open space!

      1. I would like to get more information on the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and I would be happy to be part of an effort to implement an ordinance in the township regarding historical properties.

  13. As an update, the sign theft has continued – the number of stolen signs is now 70! Beyond trespassing and theft is the threat to our First Amendment rights over expressing opposition to the proposed digital billboard in Paoli.

    On the flip side, more people in the community are now engaged with the issue! 3,350 signatures are now on the petition!

    1. My sign was stolen a few days ago. Patty brought another one around. I reported the theft to police but they never called me back to take my report.

      1. Can I ask you please call the police again and let me know if they respond — I was told by the Police Chief that residents were to call and report all signs that were stolen. Thanks for another follow-up with the police department.

  14. Couple of observations.

    1- Everyone needs to view the recorded Board meeting available on the township web site during which Catalyst threatens our township supervisors. Unreal !!! Those were fighting words but alas the Board appears to be prepared to roll over once again as not one member challenged.
    2- Why is the word “monument” used or even associated with what is being proposed. Lets call it what it really is… “Outdoor High Definition Television”
    3- I found it interesting that during that recorded Board mtg, one supervisor was asked if he had a question and his reply, ” No, I don’t have a question but am just admiring the picture of this beautiful monument”. Really, so he has already made up his mind. Something smells !!!

  15. I can’t imagine one person is stealing these signs all over the area – seems like it has to be some organized group of people. But in the end, the publicity this issue is getting BECAUSE of all the stolen signs is helping the “Ban The Billboard” movement , as more people hear about it and these thefts are in the news.Karma

    1. The number of BAN signs stolen is now at 75! One of the signs was up less than 24 hours, was located next-door to a township supervisor’s home and was stolen in broad daylight between 1 PM – 2 PM today!

  16. Don’t believe a word Mr. Bartkowski says. He made all sorts of promises to the residents of Westtown Township only to change the design plans, vegetation plans, etc. at the last minute. My property is adjacent to the billboard (Mr. Bartkowski calls it a “Monument Sign”) and I and others get intrusive light/glare from it daily. Neither the Township nor Mr. Bartkowski and his vast array of companies cared. The Township caved and gave Mr. Bartkowski what he wanted.

    1. Thank you for your first hand account from Westtown Township — Here’s hoping that Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors are reading Community Matters and see your comment! Is there anything that you and your other neighbors can now do to rectify the situation?

      1. Hi Pattye,
        Unfortunately, not unless we hire a lighting expert to prove the spillage of light/glare and bring suit. Very costly.

  17. Hi Pattye,
    Just saw your post about being President of the Historic Preservation Trust. Bartkowski and Westtown Township didn’t care about preserving history. Where they built the billboard was a historic house and they tore it down. I had an architect friend offer his services free of charge to get the house on the historic register and preserve it. The Township declined. It’s all about the $$$.

    1. Very sad and yes, it’s all about the money. And about who stands to gain with the Paoli billboard project — I’ve said from the beginning that something just doesn’t line up, there’s a missing piece of the puzzle.

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