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Innovation & Growth Initiative: Montgomery County Benchmark
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Phoenixville says no to billboard baron
Reposted from Philadelphia Inquirer Fri, Feb. 17, 2012
By Anthony Campisi
Inquirer Staff Writer
Suburban billboard baron Thaddeus Bartkowski III suffered a loss Wednesday evening in his effort to erect three electronic billboards, 12 feet high and 40 feet wide, near the heart of Phoenixville's historic downtown.
The borough's Zoning Hearing Board turned down Bartkowski's request to invalidate an ordinance that would prevent him from erecting the signs along Nutt Road, a major thoroughfare in the Chester County community.
Bartkowski, who is engaged in similar battles in Delaware and Montgomery Counties, has argued that all Pennsylvania municipalities must allow billboards somewhere within their borders.
He has cited state Supreme Court rulings from the 1960s that outlaw exclusionary zoning, which in essence say that communities may not restrict development in ways that keep out specific classes of people or businesses. Bartkowski has contended that that includes billboards.
In its decision Wednesday, the zoning board said Phoenixville does permit outdoor advertising, just not of the scope of Bartkowski's V-shaped signs, which would rise 43 feet in the air.
An attorney for Bartkowski could not be reached for comment Thursday. Bartkowski has appealed similar unfavorable decisions to county courts.
Fights have cropped up across Philadelphia's suburbs since 2008, when Bartkowski began attempting to erect billboards through the use of such challenges. No case has been definitively resolved.
The Haverford Township Zoning Hearing Board, which has been in gridlock with Bartkowski Investment Group for almost three years, unanimously voted Thursday night to deny Bartkowski's challenge to the validity of the township's no-billboard policy.
Bartkowski attorney Marc Kaplin was not present at Thursday's meeting but has said an appeal was imminent.
Bartkowski also has submitted a challenge to East Pikeland Township's zoning ordinance, to erect a billboard on Schuylkill Road. The township's zoning board is scheduled to meet Feb. 29 to hear testimony.
And in a move meant to curtail any attempt by Bartkowski or other billboard developers to erect signage where it is not wanted, Schuylkill Township, Chester County, is working on amending its zoning ordinance to address areas that would make it vulnerable to a zoning challenge.
Click to see map on Philly.com: Here’s a map of some of the billboards in suburban municipalities proposed by Thaddeus J. Bartkowski. Bartkowski has been leading an aggressive legal push to challenge zoning ordinances in towns around Philadelphia, aimed at installing billboards against public opposition. The map shows the location of the proposed billboards, by municipality, and gives the present status of the applicable zoning challenge.
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