HAVERFORD — Carrying signs with slogans such as “No Billboard Blight” and “Giant Billboards: Unsafe, Unsightly, Unacceptable” about 75 people protested proposed billboards along the 600 block of Lancaster Avenue Monday afternoon.
Spearheaded by the Brynford Civic Association, the group turned out despite the cold weather to make a point that they oppose the billboards. About 4,000 people have signed a petition on the civic association’s website: https://www.brynfordcivic.org. A hearing is set for Jan. 21 before Common Pleas Court Judge Spiro Angelos at the county courthouse in Media.
Doreen Saar said that billboards have been shown to be dangerous and they are also “unsightly.” She believes the large billboards that would perch on top of buildings would ruin the aesthetics of the area and be a detriment to local businesses.
“If (the billboard company) wins it mean billboards can be put up in any business corridor in Pennsylvania,” Saar said.
Kathy Case said quite a few residents will attend the three day hearing.
“We hope to demonstrate we are opposed to this. We hope for a big turnout,” said Case.
Nick Odorisio, who owns Nick’s Gym, is also against the billboards and has the words “No Billboards” written on the door to his business.
“Aesthetically, I think it makes the area look like the I-95 corridor,” said Odorisio, who also lives nearby. “I’m worried about the future if this goes through. What happens next? It takes away from the community aesthetics of the Main Line. It’s an absolute abomination. I’m worried about property values dropping.”
“I’m sure it doesn’t belong here,” said Mila Sokolova, who also lives nearby. “It will destroy our peaceful streets. It’s too aggressive for here.”
Alla and Oleg Boychelko, a married couple, were also protesting.
“They’re dangerous,” said Alla Boychelko. “It’s a unique neighborhood.”
Oleg Boychelko added, “It’s not a highway. We don’t need this modern commercial stuff around.”
Lower Merion Commissioner V. Scott Zelov and Haverford Commissioner Andy Lewis were also on hand and exhorted the residents to attend the court hearing.
Resident Michelle Greer said she and her husband live in a house on Old Lancaster Road that her grandparents purchased 71 years ago.
“Our home has very special meaning to us for many reasons, most importantly because our son, Andrew, is growing up in the house and bedroom my father grew up in,” said Greer. “We love our home and this wonderful neighborhood. (Billboards) will cause our wonderful neighborhoods and homes to decrease in value and the very real possibility of accidents being caused by drivers looking up at them,” she said. She’s seen drivers running the light at Lancaster and Old Lancaster avenues, she said.
“It’s a terrible idea,” said Zelov, about the billboards proposed by Bartkowski Investment Group, owned by Thaddeus Bartkowski for 600 and 658 Lancaster Ave. The company also would like to install two others at 1157 and 2040 West Chester Pike in Haverford. An appeal of a Haverford Township Zoning Board decision rejecting the billboards has been going through the legal courts for 10 years now.
Lewis thanked the residents for coming out on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day to protest. The area borders on both Lower Merion and Haverford townships.
“I think you all recognize the threat these pose to the general health, safety and welfare of this neighborhood,” said Lewis. “This is a battle we can’t afford to lose … We’ve successfully fought it back for 10 years and we’ll continue to fight it.”
“This is going to be heard and decided by a judge,” Lewis said, asking them to come to court to show their resolve. "The judge will see our resolve … This is a township that is not for sale, like some other townships who have acquiesced to Bartkowski Investments. We’re not for sale. We’ll continue to fight until the very end.”
Zelov said along with Haverford and Lower Merion, residents from Radnor and Marple townships also oppose the billboards and have signed the petition.
“These billboard companies are relentless,” said Zelov. “So there’s so much money in billboards and we have to keep fighting. Circulate that petition online to your friends and neighbors … And billboards on interstate highways are fine but not in our suburban communities and that’s our message … Keep fighting.”
Previously, a spokeswoman for the billboard company noted the Commonwealth Court found the Haverford zoning ordinance unconstitutional and that Bartkowski Investment Group was entitled to construct off-premise signs in Haverford. The company’s attempts to negotiate with township officials were unsuccessful and the township continues to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer money on the court battle, she said.