By Avery Lieberman
Special to the Chester County Press
The landscape of Lower Oxford is picturesque, but at the Lower Oxford Board of Supervisors meeting on June 11, an electronic billboard that would be built in the midst of this bucolic township was brought up for discussion.
Catalyst Outdoors has submitted a proposal for a large, electronic billboard three times to the township. The supervisors are still asking Catalyst to make some changes. Residents worry that the billboard will disrupt the scenery.
As the draft of the ordinance reads now, the billboard must be set back 20 feet from the right-of-way of Route 1. The billboard may not be closer than 1,500 feet from any other electronic sign. The face of the billboard should not change the display more than once every six seconds. It will also be dark from midnight to 6 a.m., except in cases of emergency. The billboard’s active sign area will be no more than 960 square feet.
Also in a draft ordinance, the billboard must be placed on a structure that resembles a barn. The height of the structure should not exceed more than 50 feet, but that does not include the height of the sign.
Thaddeus Bartkowski, a founding partner of Catalyst Outdoors, is suggesting that there be a design review by the Lower Oxford Planning Commission rather than going to a conditional-use hearing. Bartkowski mentioned during the meeting that, in other townships, when the design of a structure is brought into question, it is brought before the planning board as opposed to a conditional-use hearing.
The board is recommending to Catalyst Outdoors that there be some changes implemented before the proposal is accepted. One of the changes is to limit the setback from any residential zoning district from 1,000 feet to 300 feet. If the sign were to be set back 1,000 feet from any residential district, it would limit its location to only one area along Route 1, in the C2 and C3 districts.
Bartkowski is concerned that this would open up the whole Route 1 corridor, since both sides of Route 1 would be options for other signs. The board also questioned access to the billboard location.
“In our specific application, we have purchased an easement on the property for the right to have the structure on the property if this ordinance becomes adopted, and we have the responsibility for creating access to that easement,” Bartkowski said.
At the end of the meeting, one resident mentioned that a family recently purchased 10 acres near the proposed sign, after Catalyst Outdoors submitted their proposal, and asked if the family was given notice about the sign. The 10 acres, although intended for residential use, fall under a commercial district. The resident said that the billboard would be the largest between Lower Oxford and I-95.
A board member responded that, “The firehouse has one -- not that large, but there are a lot of electronic signs in the community. They are coming up all over the place.”
Also brought into question was tax revenue, and whether the structure would be taxable. According to the board, the structure that the billboard sits on would be taxable. Bartkowski estimated that the billboard and structure would be a $1.4 million investment in the community.