Proposed billboards create controversy

EAST NORRITON TWP., Pa. - September 13, 2011

"On 422, 309 they're fine, not in East Norriton Township, the size is just phenomenal," the Chair of the East Norriton Township Board of Supervisors Kandy Heckman said.

But an organization named MC Outdoor is moving forward with plans to erect four such billboards in East Norriton, including threealong West Germantown Pike.

Each of those locations is spotted just several dozen feet from residential neighborhoods.

Local officials say not only would electronic billboards lower nearby property values, they would also create another distraction for drivers along a roadway notorious for commute-time traffic.

"Not only are they big, but they're digital. They're clear, they're state of the art, they're going to attract drivers to look at them; if they didn't, these guys would not be in the business of putting them up," Christen Pionzio, East Norriton Township Solicitor, said.

If the local zoning board shoots down the billboard applications, this issue will likely end up in court.

At that point, Joseph Beller, a zoning law expert, says a judge will have to balance the municipality's legal obligation not to exclude billboards against the township's responsibility to maintain the local quality of life.

In other words, the decision would be based as much on the judge's opinion as the actual law the judge is trying to uphold.

"In these kinds of cases where someone is saying it's exclusionary, it's strictly a legal argument, which means it's obviously an interpretation," Joseph Beller, Esquirer of Offit & Kurman Law said.

The attorney representing MC Outdoor denied our request for an on-camera interview.

Concerned residents attended a public hearing Tuesday night to voice their opinions.

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