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Innovation & Growth Initiative: Montgomery County Benchmark
Learn about Abington's Next Century. To access a white paper that compares Abington to the rest of Montgomery County, click here >
Proposed Billboards in Abington
RMCA hosted a Q&A on October 12, focusing on how to keep off-premise billboards out of Abington Township. Judical precedents are not encouraging, but there are things local residents can do. Rather than relying on Commissioners alone, anyone who lives near a proposed location of a billboard can establish "legal standing" in a conflict with the billboard company, which will slow the process, and may even stop it if enough people get involved. To do that, a resident must be able to demonstrate that they will be able to see the billboards from their residence, while asserting (if true) that the billboards will interfere with their property value (and public safety in their immediate neighborhood). Presenters suggested that balloons be raised to the exact location of each billboard and photos be taken from adjacent homes.
Presenters also suggested that local businesses that have taken a stand against billboard be supported, while noting that property owners typically do not run the businesses on-premise and the lease between the property owner(s) and billboard company are private transactions (and the leases/agreements are not easily accessed through any public inquiry).
This meeting provided an opportunity to learn from three individuals affiliated with Preserve Our Pennsylvania Towns (POPT), an organization dedicated to mobilizing resident efforts to preserve and advance local community interests in the face of large, well-funded applicants who show little regard for the will of residents.
A previous meeting of the Abington Township Board of Commissioners on March 21, 2011 focused on a proposal by MC Outdoor Advertising. The owner of the company and his attorney presented their "last-best offer" before their threat to proceed to litigation.
MC Outdoor Advertising is a billboard company. Last year, it submitted 5 applications, to the Abington Zoning Hearing Board, challenging the blanket prohibition the township has on this type of advertising.
Township Solicitor Rex Herder has acknowledged that blanket prohibitions of this kind have always been struck-down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. No exceptions. The logical conclusion of this statement would be that the Township does not feel that it has precedent on its side.
According to Commissioner Steven Kline, the Abington Township Board of Commissioners took action in January to prevent other billboard companies from doing the same by declaring our own ordinance invalid (referring to state court precedent). The Board of Commissioners have until June 17th (180 days) to create a new off-site advertising (billboards) ordinance that will be as restricitive as possible considering the precedent set by recent court cases.
In the meantime, feedback was provided to MC Outdoor Advertising. As a result it developed a plan for three sites (three sign structures with six sides). The Board heard the presentation of that last best offer and did not take a vote. The Board did listen to residents, the majority of whom had strong objectives to 14 x 48 foot signs being placed adjacent to residential neighborhoods along Old York Road, at the Willow Grove Park Mall and at the Huntingdon Valley Shopping Center. The question is whether the Commissioners will stand up against urban blight in one of the best communities in the United States.
Several other area municipalities are dealing with the same issue and our township manager and solicitor have had discussions with those other municipalities to share information.
5 comments by Members are their personal opinions (see RMCA policies)