Haverford Township goes billboard free

There won´t be a billboard atop 658 Lancaster Ave., after the Haverford Township Zoning Hearing Board voted unanimously against Bartkowski Investment Group´s challenge to the township´s zoning code. (Ashley Nguyen / Philly.com)
There won't be a billboard atop 658 Lancaster Ave., after the Haverford Township Zoning Hearing Board voted unanimously against Bartkowski Investment Group's challenge to the township's zoning code. (Ashley Nguyen / Philly.com)

Margaret Murr couldn’t help pointing out whose turf Bartkowski Investment Group played on for the past three years as the advertising company worked to put up five billboards in Haverford Township.

“It’s our town,” Murr, one of the four township residents who filed as parties in the hearing, said after the Haverford Township Zoning Hearing Board voted unanimously to deny BIG’s challenge to the validity of the township’s advertising code.

Though Robert Kane, the chairman of the board, acknowledged billboards are prohibited in the township, not all non-accessory outdoor advertisements are. When Marc Kaplin originally petitioned the validity and constitutionality of the township’s code, he said the township improperly excluded all non-accessory outdoor advertising signs. Non-accessory outdoor advertising signs include ads on bus stop shelters and grocery carts, which are allowed in Haverford Township.

“You have to look at the application prepared by prior council,” Zoning Solicitor William Malone said. “Did they request a challenge for billboards or non-accessory outdoor advertising signs? The outcome is likely affected by that.”

However, Kane also said the parties in opposition to BIG showed sufficient evidence to meet their burden of proving billboards would negatively affect Haverford Township’s public safety, health and welfare.

“Both townships made strong cases that led the ZHB to make the decision they did tonight,” Lower Merion Commissioner Scott Zelov said. “Billboards don’t belong in our suburban communities.”

Two of the locations where BIG tried to erect billboards were located in the Bryn Mawr section of Haverford Township. Zelov represents Ward 10 of Lower Merion where Bryn Mawr is located. Lower Merion Township Solicitor William Kerr argued in concurrence with Haverford Township Zoning Solicitor Jim Byrne in the almost three-year long battle.

But the fight, Sandi Donato said, is far from over.

“He’ll appeal it,” Donato said after the board announced its decision. “But as parties to the hearing, we could pursue him in court as well.”

Marc Kaplin, who represents BIG in the Haverford Township case, was not present at Thursday night’s hearing, but said this afternoon the decision is what he expected.

"Surprise, surprise, surprise," Kaplin said after being told the board denied BIG's challenge, adding that an appeal is "absolute."

An opinion will be released by the board by March 1, Malone said.

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