The end of 2018 left many of us in the community with more questions than answers about Tredyffrin Township’s direction regarding the future of the Clockworks building and the proposed digital billboard project at the intersection of Rts 252 and 30 in Paoli. However, the New Year brings exciting news from the township on a couple of fronts.
If you recall, Tredyffrin Township received two applications from Catalyst Outdoor Advertising (dba “Tredyffrin Outdoor, LLC”) on December 18 related to their proposed digital billboard project – (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.
This week the public learned at the Board of Supervisors meeting that the Clockworks building demolition permit application was denied, with the township citing an ‘incomplete application’. The Catalyst representatives had submitted the demolition application in December without including the signature of the owner of the property, Dale Nelson.
Thaddeus Bartkowski, the CEO of Catalyst has a signed 30 year lease on the small billboard located on the Clockworks site but does not actually own the property. The lease between Catalyst and Dale E. Nelson, the owner of the property, is only for the small sign located next to the Clockworks building. (The lease is included in the demolition documents). So, then the question becomes how is it possible that Mr. Bartkowski thinks he can demolish a building on property that he doesn’t actually own? Did he think that the township staff review of the demolition application would perhaps not catch the glaring omission?
It is my understanding that a property sale agreement exists between Catalyst and Nelson (the owner of the property) for some future closing date. I have not seen a copy of the sale agreement — however there is no doubt that the agreement and expected closing date is based on certain terms – perhaps a contingency based on township approval for the digital billboard.
And important point to remember is that there is nothing to keep Catalyst from resubmitting the demolition permit application with Dale Nelson’s signature. The township demolition process does not require approval by the Board of Supervisors and the Clockworks building is not protected. I need to restate that Tredyffrin Township does not have a historic preservation ordinance — Clockworks building aside, no historic property is protected from demolition.
But you would have to wonder why Nelson would sign the demolition application on the Clockworks building prior to Catalyst actually purchasing the property. How about this scenario, Dale Nelson signs the demolition permit application, the Clockworks building comes down and Catalyst does not gain approval for the digital billboard. Were Tredyffrin Township to decide not to approve the proposed digital billboard monument, Catalyst may decide not to move forward on the property sale – thus leaving Dale Nelson with an empty lot, no revenue source from the Clockworks building and a community of unhappy residents! To date, Catalyst has not submitted the plans for the digital monument so there’s no action required on the part of the township.
The other application submitted by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising last month was for an “electric lamp changeable copy face” at 1819 Lancaster Ave, Paoli. Catalyst was proposing the digitizing of the existing small free standing advertising sign next to the Clockworks building. Remember, this is the sign with the 30-year lease between Catalyst and Dale Nelson.
We learned yesterday that 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 states that the proposed sign does not comply with the requirements of an advertising sign and is not permitted on the property. In its application, Catalyst suggests that the sign is an “electric lamp changeable copy face” and the township has determined that the sign is not a changeable copy sign. Catalyst does have the right to appeal the notice through the Zoning Hearing Board within 30 days.
With the denial of the application to digitize the existing sign and a denial on the demolition application of the Clockworks building (albeit they can resubmit with required signature) is it possible that Catalyst Outdoor Advertising will see the handwriting on the wall and take their plans for a digital billboard somewhere else? Will Dale Nelson do some soul-searching and not sign the demolition application?
Although I’m excited that the township leadership has denied the two applications from Catalyst regarding the proposed digital billboard, it needs to be stated that the battle is not over.
And just when I thought that the “Ban the Digital Billboard” signs were safe, I have learned that two were stolen from a resident’s lawn over the weekend – this was the third set of signs stolen from this specific property, just steps from her front door on Old Eagle School Road.
I have additional “Ban” signs ready to go up in the next couple of weeks and I ask that you ask you friends, neighbors and co-workers to sign the “Ban the Digital Billboard” petition on Change.org. (Click here for the link to share).
Paoli, Pennsylvania is not New York City, Chicago or Philadelphia … It’s our community, we love it and don’t want a digital billboard!