On Sept. 4, Gary Silow, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, ruled in favor of an appeal by Lower Providence Township. The township opposed the Lower Providence Zoning Hearing Board’s decision that allowed the construction of billboards on the J.P. Mascaro & Sons corporate headquarters’ property in Audubon.
The Zoning Hearing Board’s decision was made on Jan. 27, 2011, where J.P. Mascaro & Sons would allow the property manager, MB Investments, to construct two “V-shaped” billboards, each with a static and digital side.
J.P. Mascaro & Sons is a family-owned and operated waste management company. Its corporate headquarters is located at 2650 Audubon Road.
The proposed billboards would face toward Route 422, which would also overlook Valley Forge National Park.
“I’m delighted we won the appeal from the Zoning Hearing Board,” Richard Brown, chairman of the Lower Providence Board of Supervisors, said. “They would be two big billboards obscuring the scenic easement of Valley Forge Park.”
“We really value the efforts the township has made,” Deirdre Gibson, chief of planning and resource management at Valley Forge Park, said. “This is a township where the residents care about visual quality.”
Gibson had testified in front of the Zoning Board, stating that the proposed billboards would provide a distraction from the beauty of the region.
According to Gibson, 800 acres of the historic park resides within Lower Providence. She said vantage points within the park, such as along the Schuylkill River Trail and the Valley Forge Park Visitors’ Center, have direct lines of sight to the J.P. Mascaro & Sons building, and therefore the proposed billboards would as well.
“It’s not that digital billboards are bad themselves,” Gibson said. “It’s just where you build them.”
Bill Fox, general counsel to J.P. Mascaro & Sons, who is representing the company in this matter, argues that the billboards would not provide such a distraction, and pointed to a billboard on a property 800-feet from the company’s property.
When asked about the nearby billboard, Gibson responded that it was not as visible as the J.P. Mascaro & Sons building.
Fox also pointed out that there are currently several structures surrounding the park that are not exactly in keeping with the park’s interior environment, such as the Valley Forge Convention Center.
However, visual aesthetics aside, Fox notes that Silow’s decision was not based on Gibson’s visual appeal testimony. He explained that the court found a portion of the township’s billboard ordinance as unconstitutionally exclusionary, which would allow the construction of the proposed billboards, but not the site-specific relief that Fox was after.
“I won a pyrrhic victory,” Fox said.
During the township’s appeal, J.P. Mascaro & Sons were allowed to construct the foundations for the billboards.
Fox said that J.P. Mascaro and Sons will make an appeal to the Commonwealth Court, and expects that court’s decision to occur in approximately nine months.