Supervisors ponder electronic billboards

By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY

For 21st Century Media

LOWER OXFORD - At their June 11 meeting, Lower Oxford Township supervisors wanted to see some changes before they move forward with the adoption of an ordinance change that will allow the construction of a large electronic billboards in the township.

The ordinance change is being prompted by a request from Catalyst Outdoor. The company first submitted the proposal for a sign to the Lower Oxford Planning Commission, which has worked with the ordinance and is now passing it on to the supervisors for action.

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The ordinance would allow for signs with a maximum message size of 960 square feet. Automatic Changable Copy Sign Faces are new to the area in this size range. The sign would be constructed on a building made to resemble a barn. Regulations in the ordinance prohibit bright flashing effects, sound or animation. The signs will go dark from midnight to 6 a.m., except for Amber Alerts or emergency messages.

The only location that would be allowed would be along the Route 1 corridor, in a commercial zone, but the supervisors want to be sure that they would not be creating spot zoning. As the ordinance was before the planning commission, the sign would have to be set back from any residential zoned property by 1,000 feet, but that appears to limit the billboard to one location alongside Route 1.

To open other locations to the electronic signs, Supervisor Joel Brown is suggesting dropping the set back to 300 feet. I dont want to restrict it to the point where theres one location. The solicitor was very emphatic we could not limit it to one site.

Thaddeus Bartkowski, founding partner for Catalyst Outdoor was not eager to see that reduction and offered to provide more options for wording. My concern about drastically reducing the distance from residential is to put a buffer from residential zone, he said. My concern by limiting it to 300 feet, youre opening up the entire corridor and Im not sure if that is what you want to achieve.

Another change the board would like to make is to add a provision that would require a conditional use hearing by the supervisors before approval. To me, the main thing Id be looking for is the design of the building. At the conditional use hearing you come in with a set of plans to show what it looks like, Brown said.

During the public comment period at the close of the meeting, the board was asked about the tax impact of the sign. Brown noted that the barn type building that holds signs on one or two sides will be a taxable structure, so there will be tax revenue. Bartkowski characterized his plan as a $1.4 million investment.