WEST CHESTER (May 2) – State Senator Andy Dinniman said that he is drafting legislation to establish guidelines for the placement of the large electronic and digital billboards that are appearing alongside roadways and near neighborhoods throughout Chester County.
“I have been contacted by constituents voicing numerous concerns about these digital billboards, most recently the two-sided one located on Route Bypass 30 in Downingtown,” Dinniman said. “It is my job to stand up for the residents of Chester County on issues like this, which directly impact their quality of life.”
In Downingtown, residents of North Lake Drive recently met with Dinniman to discuss the impact the billboard is having on their lives, particularly in the evening and night hours when its lights shine into their homes.
One North Lake Drive resident, Bobbi Jo Broomell, described the billboard as being “too bright” and looking like “a huge movie screen in the sky.”
“You have to see this to believe it. Just travel off 113 down Farmhouse and you enter into another galaxy,” she wrote in an e-mail to Dinniman.
In recent years, residents in both Phoenixville and Lower Oxford have also expressed concerns regarding the light pollution, traffic safety, and other issues related to such billboards.
In 2012, the Phoenixville Zoning Board ruled against a challenge to its ordinances, which would have allowed such a sign to be constructed along Nutt Road. Last January, the Lower Oxford Supervisors in a split vote approved an ordinance allowing a video billboard along Route 1, but residents and officials continue to debate the future of such a project. Meanwhile, large electronic billboards have been erected on Route 202 in East Goshen and in Concord Township near the Delaware Border.
Dinniman, who during his time as Chester County commissioner served as one of the principal architects of the county’s award-winning open space program, said he was compelled to act to protect Chester County’s investments in open space, residents’ quality of life, homeowners’ property values, and other lighting and environmental issues.
“Chester County has invested millions of dollars in preserving our open spaces and scenic vistas. To let huge, digital billboards overrun the countryside would be contrary to all our efforts to protect our region’s rural charm, natural viewsheds, and local communities,” he said. “We are seeing these signs proposed near residential neighborhoods, as well as some of the last bastions of agricultural open space in the county.”
Dinniman, who serves on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, said he was in the process of drafting legislation that would require municipalities to do the following when considering or approving proposed digital or electronic billboards:
- Consider and update lighting concerns regarding a proposed digital or electronic billboard’s lighting impact on local residents and neighborhoods.
- Take into account the potential impact on open space and the preservation of open space viewsheds.
- Consider the potential loss of real estate property value on nearby homes and businesses.
- Consider vehicle accident rates on roadways and study a proposed digital or electronic billboard’s potential to distract drivers.
Furthermore, Dinniman said his legislation will change the permit process by which PennDOT approves such “off-premise” signs. Under his bill, PennDOT will be required to include local municipalities in its site review process before granting any such permits on its rights of way.
“Local leaders deserve to have a seat at the table when PennDOT is considering approving such an application. After all, we are the ones that live here,” Dinniman said.
“The bottom line is this is Chester County, not Las Vegas,” he added.