PA Case Law says a municipality can not exclude a legitimate business but can set ordinances that determine location, size, height, placement, egress....UNLESS it can show it is adverse to the health, safety and welfare of the residents.
Outdoor advertising companies have been using this "exclusionary" angle in fighting the suburban local ordinances, questioning the constitutional validity of their ordinances (RE: Off premise signage), or in Haverford's and Springfield's case, the lack there of. They claim there is an industry standard, "48ftX14ft", and unless the municipality allows off premise signs of this size, their business is excluded which is illegal. Bartkowski Investment Group (B.I.G.) lead by Thaddeus Bartkowski, III wants to erect I-95 sized billboards in the residential communities in Haverford, Marple, Springfield, Newtown Townships and the borough of Morton.
Recently, there were a few cases that favored the Outdoor Advertising Companies (Exeter Township and Southampton Twp.) These cases set precedence in the courts that gave BIG the confidence to move in on our towns. Though these cases have some similarities, they are not the exact same situations from town to town AND the legal defense were also different.
Bartkowski sent a realtor, names Patrick Wolfington into properties along, West Chester Pike, Lancaster Avenue, Sproul Road and Baltimore Pike. He offered the property owners lease agreements that stipulated a monthly fee (anywhere between $1500-$3000/month), Bartkowski's representation through the whole "approval" process, extra property insurance - $5 million dollars. These leases are for 30 years.
As proposed, the billboards will be located on a decided upon section of the property and would be 48ft x 14ft in size (except for one in Newtown Twp that is proposed 20ft X 60ft). Most signs will be set on monopoles or on rooftops between 52 and 78 ft in the air. These monoploles need a foundation that is 6 foot wide and as deep in the ground as at least half the height of the sign. They are meant to be permanent. Bartkowski stands to make substantial amounts of money/month per side for the advertising space and due to the first amendment; we will have NO SAY on what is advertised on these HUGE signs.
So hook, line, and sinker, many property owners took this fabulous deal in front of them in a flailing economy. Did they expect the negative reaction of the community or the backlash from their tenants who claim to be losing business due to the community outrage and awareness events? Did Wolfington and Bartkowski expect it?
Our "group" formed on June 6th at the first awareness event staged outside the Park's Best Car Wash in Haverford on West Chester Pike when a concerned resident of Haverford sent out an email the night before to the local civic association email distribution list. Marple residents had already been handing out information in their township. Marple residents and Haverford residents have been united from the beginning, meeting at that awareness event. We have sought out and found other contacts in other townships. We have met with the Pennsylvania Resource Council and with Mary Tracy, formerly of SCRUB, now President of Scenic America. Both non-profit organizations have been so supportive helpful in guiding us. There are other many local businesses throughout the townships showing their support and billboards opposition by displaying our window signs. We have reached out to our representatives and our senators. We are very busy doing what we can from our side of this fight.
Our awareness events are meant to raise community awareness, show our commitment to our community to the property owners and keep the issue in the local papers, thus raising awareness. Awareness events are peaceful, we have never tried to stop anyone from entering a business or advocated boycotts.
We are trying to empower the people of these townships to use their voices to stop this from happening. We are taxpayers, voters, parents, consumers, we ARE Bartkowski's target demographic. We ARE these towns and we strongly believe that billboards in our towns pose health, safety and welfare issues and can/will start an economic decline in our townships beginning with our property values.