Digital billboards, electronic billboards, changeable variable message centers – whatever you call them they are the same thing: a huge safety hazard, motorist distraction and an aesthetic catastrophe.
For many of us, the notion of putting a digital billboard anywhere in the township is ridiculous let alone at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. in Paoli! But our Tredyffrin Township supervisors are seriously entertaining a proposal by Catalyst Outdoor to install a large 20 ft. high “TV in the sky” electronic billboard at arguably one of the most congested intersections in the township.
I rewatched the Board of Supervisor meeting from Monday, October 1, paying particular attention to the opening remarks by solicitor Vince Donohue regarding the electronic billboard. We learned Catalyst Outdoor first approached the township 1-1/2 years ago about constructing a digital “welcome” monument sign at the Clockworks location in Paoli. According to Donohue, Catalyst CEO Thaddeus Bartkowski stated that Tredyffrin’s “zoning ordinance for outdoor advertising was illegally restrictive” and that as a result, the company was prepared to commence litigation.
The basis for Catalyst’s claim that the township’s outdoor advertising ordinance is illegal is that the “size, height and number of faces” is not consistent on the three township billboards and that restrictions are not enforceable. The three township billboards are located on Bear Hill Road/Rt. 252, Lancaster Avenue across from the BMW dealership and at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. in Paoli.
After Catalyst came to the township with its position regarding the illegalities of the outdoor advertising ordinance (as stated by Donohue) the township entered into “certain settlement negotiations” to consider the proposed digital billboard in Paoli. The solicitor further stated that in the upcoming weeks or months, the township may be entertaining a settlement agreement with Catalyst regarding this matter.
My first thought was just “wow”, how is it possible that all this discussion had been going for so long and the community had no idea. I understand that as residents, we do not need to be kept in the loop on every aspect of township business but it appears wholly unfair that something so important — that will forever change the landscape of Paoli, affect safety, demolish a historic Okie house, etc. — was not mentioned in public until the September 17 Board of Supervisors meeting.
A thirty year lease arrangement was signed in January 2016 between the property owner (Dale E. Nelson) and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising; no large transfer tax windfall coming to the township. (My guess is that the discussion with the township was well underway before the lease was signed!)
To be clear, the township and its residents do not benefit financially from this proposed digital billboard although the community will be ‘gifted’ with occasional free electronic notices. In my opinion, there is little gain for the township and its residents should this digital billboard be approved by the Board of Supervisors but a lot to be lost.
A disappointing and discouraging situation; as it now appears that the township/Catalyst discussion has been long ongoing. The supervisor discussion is no longer about the appropriateness of a digital sign but rather has advanced to the design features of the “welcome to the township” monument. If this digital billboard is eventually approved, it’s a legacy that that each supervisor will carry forward.
Since writing my last Community Matters blog post, I have received emails and phone calls from residents all opposing the proposed digital billboard. They oppose the billboard for a multitude of reasons, ranging from safety concerns to the possible demolition of an original Okie house. Contrary to what some of the supervisors may want you to believe, I have heard from NO ONE who thinks a digital sign in the middle of Paoli is a good idea. My guess is those 3 or 4 people who expressed support at the last supervisors meeting (including the Del Chevrolet owner), may just be the only township residents in favor of this proposal.
Many have asked what can they do – I have suggested writing to the township supervisors. Here’s the link to the online form:
For those that know their elected officials, send a personal email or make a phone call. Sadly, several people have reported receiving emails from supervisors with remarks such as “the township is afraid of being sued” or “if we don’t agree to the electronic billboard, it could be worse”. Worse, how? Seems to me a 20 ft. high flashing screen is pretty bad!
As for the threat of a lawsuit? My response is are the residents of Tredyffrin Township supposed to be held hostage by a sign company? Why should we be forced to live with a dangerous blinking sign that no one wants?
Because there is not yet a signed agreement between the township and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising is there time for the community to loudly ‘Say No to Digital Billboard in Paoli” and have their elected officials listen?
Would a social media campaign opposing the digital billboard have any chance of succeeding? At this point, it is uncertain but I’m willing to try. I had a logo designed, set up a Facebook page, “Ban Digital Billboard in Paoli” and a Change.org petition. Here are the links:
Facebook Page Link: Ban Digital Billboard in Paoli
Change.org Petition Link: Ban Digital Billboard in Paoli
If we are to stand a chance, all those opposing the proposed digital billboard need to send a loud message to our elected officials.
Contact township supervisors, leave comments on Community Matters, like and follow the Facebook page, sign the Change.org petition and then send the links to everyone you know and ask them to do the same thing!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 610-644-6759 if you have suggestions or questions.
Scenic America, the only national organization that stands up to the powerful multi-billion dollar outdoor advertising industry, can you help us?!
It takes a community to stop a digital billboard!