Billboard controversy in Haverford likely headed to court, BIG attorney says

Bartkowski Investment Group, which proposes putting a billboard at 600 Lancaster Ave., says Haverford Township´s exclusion of billboards in its zoning code is unconstitutional. (Ashley Nguyen / Philly.com)
Bartkowski Investment Group, which proposes putting a billboard at 600 Lancaster Ave., says Haverford Township's exclusion of billboards in its zoning code is unconstitutional. (Ashley Nguyen / Philly.com) (Ashley Nguyen / Philly.com)

From one township to another, Bartkowski Investment Group landed on the agenda of the Haverford Township Zoning Hearing Board Thursday night to continue its fight to erect six billboards in the township.

But the discussion – unlike the case, which has persisted since 2009 – was short lived.

Zoning Solicitor William Malone said he received a telephone message and letter from Jim Byrne, the attorney representing Haverford Township, requesting an extension to present closing arguments for the case. Lower Merion Township attorney William Kerr made the same request.

Representing BIG, attorney Marc Kaplin agreed to the extension, Malone said.

The board agreed to push back the date for all parties’ closing arguments to Feb. 2. Included in the mix will be township residents Mark Capriotti, Margaret Murr, Sandi Donato and Michelle Collier.

Because of the granted extension, Byrne and Kerr did not submit their findings and conclusions to the zoning solicitor by last night, as originally planned. In accordance with the original deadline, Kaplin did. In BIG’s findings, the advertising company maintains the township’s exclusion of billboards in its zoning code is unconstitutional, and that the “township has admitted that the township zoning ordinance totally excludes billboards from the township.”

“Since there is no dispute that the Haverford Township Zoning Ordinance totally excludes billboards, the burden shifts to the Township to demonstrate a valid public purpose in totally excluding billboards,” BIG’s findings state. “Under established Pennsylvania law, it is extremely difficult to demonstrate that there is a valid public purpose in totally excluding billboards from a municipality.”

If the Zoning Hearing Board does not conclude the exclusion of billboards to be a faulty part of the code, the township will surely be headed to a Delaware County Court.

“I’d be very pleasantly surprised if they find the zoning ordinance to be invalid,” Kaplin said in a phone interview. “I expect us to be to court.”

Earlier this week, a Delaware County Common Pleas Judge denied a summary judgment and site-specific relief filed by BIG to advance the billboard crusader’s efforts in Marple Township.