Monroeville Planning Commission won’t back billboard request
A request for Monroeville to amend the zoning ordinance to allow bigger and brighter billboards near some portions of Interstate 376 will go before council without a stamp of approval from the planning commission.
Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposal during the Jan. 8 work session.
The advertising companies — Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Interstate Outdoor Advertising and Churchville-based Right Angle Media — are seeking permission to construct five billboards, each with two 672-square-foot faces, beside I-376, also known as the Parkway East.
Because these signs would be more than four times the 150-square-foot limit, the companies are also asking Monroeville officials to carve out exceptions to the zoning ordinance that would allow them to erect the proposed signs.
While the companies are touting the proposal as a way to stimulate business, planning commission members voiced concerns before voting 6-0 not to recommend the applications during a meeting on Dec. 17.
One member, Anthony Pokusa, abstained. Members’ objections were financial.
“All these NFL teams and basketball teams that come into communities and play a game, they’re taxed on what they make. I was just wondering if there’s ways to pay Monroeville for the advertising on those signs,” said commission Chairman Bob Williams.
Commission member Georgiana Woodhall said the proposal offered “no financial benefit for Monroeville.”
Interstate CEO Jeffrey Gerber said he isn’t aware of any arrangement in which his company pays state or local taxes in communities where its billboards are located.
“I’ve never seen that,” Gerber said.
He said the municipality would benefit from the proposal.
Interstate would post emergency notifications on the digital billboards to warn motorists without charging Monroeville for this service.
Gerber also said most of his company’s clients are local and regional businesses.
The companies have outlined their plans for the billboards in conditional-use applications.
Municipal solicitor Bruce Dice has described this type of application as a “quasi-judicial” process and advised council members not to comment on pending conditional-use applications to avoid showing prejudice.
The companies have requested amendments to the local zoning ordinance that would increase that limit to 700 square feet in a special “outdoor advertising overlay district” comprising the three parcels on which the advertisers want to erect billboards.
The parcels are located near the parkway, within about a mile of the boundary with Penn Hills.
The properties are in the M-1 and M-2 industrial and C-2 commercial zoning districts.
Mark Ciufo, Monroeville’s zoning and code-enforcement officer, said the changes to the ordinance would apply only to these parcels and not to the rest of the parkway.
Residents at the planning meeting worried about the effect that the proposal would have on the value of nearby property.
Along with changes in size restrictions, the advertisers are asking for amendments in the zoning ordinance that would allow them to install digital billboards, and residents also worried about public safety for the roughly 92,000 vehicles a day that travel down the parkway.
“The last thing we need on that parkway is one more flashing distraction,” resident Natalie Sandretto said.
Gideon Bradshaw is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2369 or [email protected].