Dinniman introduces bill to regulate electronic billboards

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State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19)

State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19)

State Senator Andy Dinniman has introduced legislation calling for more thorough guidelines regarding the placement of large electronic and digital billboards alongside roadways and nearby local communities throughout Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 1301 calls for local municipalities to conduct public hearings before approving such billboards. Under the legislation, the hearing should specifically address the following issues in relation to the placement of electronic or digital billboards: 

  • The size, spacing, and lighting of the device.
  • The potential impact on current residents and future proposed developments.
  • Traffic and pedestrian safety concerns.
  • Open space issues, including aesthetic beauty and historic character, as well as state and nonprofit funds spent on their preservation.
  • The potential impact on development rights, as well as agricultural, conservation and other easements.

In addition, the bill changes and improves the permitting process so that applicants must meet with PennDOT representatives and local government leaders at the site designated for the proposed billboard prior to approval. 

Dinniman said he drafted the bill in response to concerns from a number of constituents whose lives have been negatively impacted by the growing number of large digital billboards in our region.

“Some of the laws and regulations regarding billboards date back to the 1970s. Others are simply nonexistent because they have not kept up with technological developments and the age of digital and electronic advertising,” Dinniman said. “It’s time that the impact of digital billboards on local residents is considered, that their concerns are heard, and that local leaders have all the information and tools they need to make the best decisions for their communities.”

Most recently, residents of the North Lake Drive community in Downingtown came before Downingtown Borough Council to discuss the impact the billboard is having on their lives, particularly in the evening hours when its lights shine into their homes.

In response, billboard company officials have offered to plant trees to obstruct residents’ views of the digital billboard, but have refused calls to turn off the westbound side of the sign, which seems to impact the most residents, during the evening hours.

“Downingtown is known as the ‘good-neighbor’ community, and the vast majority of companies that do business in Downingtown and in Chester County are good neighbors. I would hope that digital billboard and electronic advertising companies do that same. It seems like the residents are only asking to be met half-way, literally,” Dinniman said.  

In recent years, residents in both Phoenixville and Lower Oxford have also expressed concerns regarding the light pollution, traffic safety, and other issues associated with 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. In Lower Oxford,  residents and officials continue to debate the future of such a project. Meanwhile, large electronic billboards have been erected on Route 202 both near the Delaware Border and approaching West Chester.

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,” Dinniman, who also serves on the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, 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.”

Senate Bill 1301 is currently in the Senate Transportation Committee. Dinniman said he expects the Senate Democratic Policy Committee to hold a public hearing on the bill in Chester County this summer. 

For more information, call Senator Dinniman’s office at 610-692-2112 or e-mail acirucci@pasenate.com.

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