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Ridley Park residents meet to discuss Hetzel Park Billboard

With residents still seeking answers about the billboard being erected in their Hetzel Park neighborhood, council president Bob Berger told the residents at last week’s council meeting that a special question and answer session will be held 7 p.m. today.

More than a dozen residents complained about a lighted billboard under construction in Hetzel Park and questioned council on how this could happen. Barbara Ormsby was at the meeting and filed this story for the DelCoTimes. Photo image by RPOL member Michelle Vanella-Kudenko.

Complaints centered around the size of the sign, the lighting, the effect it could have on property values in their neighborhood and construction workers who were the site at 8 a.m. Saturday, a day that one woman said she was told was not part of the work week by sign installers.

But most of all, residents wanted to know why a billboard is going up at all in a residential neighborhood.

Borough solicitor Ernest Angelos explained that the billboard matter goes back seven years and is the result of a federal court order to settle a dispute between the Lamor Advertising company and the borough, that denied the company the zoning needed for the sign along Interstate 95. Angelos said the court ruling stated that the borough can regulate where billboards can be located but cannot restrict them.

“The federal judge said try to settle it, or if you go to trial, you are liable to get five billboards along Chester Pike because the (borough sign ordinance) is unconstitutional,” Angelos said.

Angelos said the lighted side of the sign will face I-95, not the residential area, and will only be seen by southbound traffic. He said the borough fought the lawsuit that challenged the borough code, but once it got to the federal level, the cost was prohibitive.

“The sign is directly in front of my house. Will we get a tax break?” Hetzel Road resident Albert Rosetti asked council.

Ken Harper, a former borough councilman, asked Angelos how much money the borough will collect in fees from the billboard company and the solicitor said $35,000 a year per sign face.

Borough councilman Jared Brennan told the residents the borough failed to reach out to residents affected by the sign even though it had been discussed at public meetings.

“Where we failed was not communicating with the residents,” Brennan said.

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Comment by RidleyParkOnline on October 17, 2013 at 8:41pm

@Lori - thank you for those clarifying points.  I wasn't sure what the most recent version was so I cited the 2009 adoption date cause I couldn't find the updates changes you wrote about but I'm aware that the code was adjusted to confirm to the situation at hand.  If anyone has a digital copy of the latest version it would be great to put it out for all of us to read.

Comment by lori on October 17, 2013 at 8:31pm
Parker girl are you aware that the zoning has been changed by borough council on several different aspects in order for the sign to be placed. The most recent ordinance is not easy to pin down. But it enabled the zoning of the property to commercial and exempted the area from being required to abutt a public street and significantly changed the distance from residential properties to I think 175 feet. This all works for them and was done under executive session. They also did not follow any county recommendations when changing the ordinance. I believe the most recent updates are 2011. Its their party they make the rules. If they don't work change it as you go.
Comment by RidleyParkOnline on October 17, 2013 at 7:16pm

Here is the Zoning Ordinance For The Borough Of Ridley Park Adopted October 20, 2009 and prepared by the Delaware County Planning Department.

Ridley Park Borough Code, Section 1509 Billboards:
1. The Borough has considered the need for the promotion of local and county businesses, organizations, and events to the motoring public on Interstate 95, which abuts a small portion of the Borough. In light of this need, the Borough will allow the installation of one (1) Borough- or County-owned billboard to be located in the Interstate Fronting Civic Use zoning district. Such billboard may be operated by a third party for general commercial purposes but must also have availability for community announcements. The following requirements shall apply to the billboard:

a. The billboard will be allowed to have a gross surface area no greater than one thousand two hundred (1,200) square feet.
b. The billboard shall be set back not less than five hundred (500) feet (measured by radial spacing) from any other zoning district. Distance measurement shall be made horizontally in all directions from the nearest edge of the sign face.
c. The billboard structure shall have a maximum height above the grade at the sign base of one hundred twenty (120) feet.
d. It shall be located within two hundred (200) feet of the right-of-way of Interstate 95.
e. The design and configuration shall include changeable message technology and shall comply with the requirements of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for a general outdoor advertising sign or billboard.
f. It shall not display any obscene material.
g. It shall not emit noise.
h. The billboard shall not be mounted on a roof, wall, or face or other part of a building or any other structure, including trees.

i. External illumination of any and all sign faces on the billboard shall be shielded to prevent the light source from being seen from adjacent or nearby residential properties, streets, or sidewalks.

2. All billboard standards herein shall exist in full force and effect in conjunction with all sign standards existing in the most recent edition of the International Construction Code (ICC), as amended. Whenever any conflict exists between this chapter and the ICC Code, the more restrictive provisions shall have precedence.

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