Meetings set  to update residents on possible new billboards

A billboard.

HAVERFORD — Area communities are continuing to fight against the intrusion of billboards. Two upcoming community meetings - Jan. 9 and Jan. 14 - are on tap to let people know about possible billboards in Haverford and some that would impinge on Lower Merion.

A fight against billboards for Haverford Township side of Lancaster Avenue at 600 and 658 Lancaster Ave. has been going on for 10 years, said Andy Lewis, president of the Haverford Board of Commissioners. Those signs will be on the agenda for the Jan. 9 community meeting. And others that might come to 1157 West Chester Pike and 2040 West Chester Pike will be discussed at the Jan. 14 meeting.

“It’s a very big deal,” said Lower Merion Commissioner V. Scott Zelov. “Highway-size billboards don’t belong in our suburban community. They impact the character of the community and the quality of life and I’ve been opposing them since they’ve been proposed over 10 years ago. It’s a never-ending process.”

While the Lancaster Avenue sites would be in Haverford, Lower Merion residents would also be impacted, he said.

There is also the specter that if billboards would be approved, Catalyst, the company, owned by Thaddeus Bartkowski, would convert those to digital billboards “that are even more distracting to drivers and thus even more unsafe,” said Zelov.

Meanwhile, an appeal of a Haverford zoning decision on the billboards, which went up to the appellant court, is back in Common Pleas Court in Media and is set to be heard by Judge Spiro Angelos on January 21. The case could run three or four days, said Zelov.

The problem with the billboards is not just their size but the ones sought for Lancaster Avenue would be on top of buildings, said Lewis.

“I think they’re going to be very distracting, not at eye level,” he said. Drivers would look up at the billboards, taking their eyes off the road and causing safety issues.

And also the billboards are “a quality of life issue” for residents.

Stationary billboards would be lighted and that would affect nearby residents and digital billboards would amp that disturbance up, he said.

“A changing message will cast light over a wide area, which would affect people’s quality of life and property values,” Lewis said. The billboards are proposed for the “wrong locations,” he said.

“We’ve been fighting this for 10 years and we’re fighting to the end,” said Lewis. “In my personal opinion, the ones on Lancaster are completely unsafe.”

Drivers are already distracted by their cell phones and several blind people cross Lancaster Avenue in that area, along with bus and school bus traffic.

“I’m particularly concerned about safety, quality of life, and property values,” said Lewis. “It’s a disaster to have those signs along Route 30.” Billboards should be along interstates not local highways that abut residential areas, he said.

“I think the billboards will just be a disaster in our neighborhood,” said Lewis.

If you go: the Jan. 9 meeting will be at 7 p.m. at The Haverford School’s Centennial Hall, with parking off the College Avenue entrance. The Jan. 14 meeting is set for 7:00 p.m. at the Manoa Fire Co., 115 S. Eagle Road in Havertown.

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