Bucks County Herald

Petition calls for removal of electronic sign in Quakertown

JOE FERRY



A three-sided digital billboard at the intersection of routes 309 and 313 in Quakertown is drawing the ire of residents.

A three-sided digital billboard at a busy Quakertown intersection should be torn down and replaced with a tree, according to the organizer of a petition on change.org.

David Davies of Quakertown said he intends to present the petition to borough council in hopes of having the sign at routes 309 and 313 removed. His goal is 2,000 supporters.

“This big eyesore of a sign is not only tacky but also a huge distraction to drivers,” Davies wrote in the introduction to his online petition. “Our small town already has enough accidents on Route 309 caused by distracted drivers, we do not need another reason for accidents to happen.”

In a little over two days, Davies’ petition has drawn just over 1,900 signatures and dozens of pointed comments in support, some of them calling the sign “ugly and distracting,” “a monstrous thing,” “absolutely hideous,” “obnoxious,” and a “metal scrapyard eyesore.”

Catalyst Outdoor, the company behind the sign, calls it a “unique monument” and is spending about $1.2 million to install it to attract the attention of nearly 50,000 vehicles a day. According to company literature, each of the three billboards is capable of displaying 1,000 spots per day to reach nearly 60,000 commuters age 18 and up.

Many commenters on the petition assumed the sign was a misplaced work of art and said the borough should have spent its tax dollars elsewhere sprucing up the borough.

However, Quakertown Borough Manager Scott McElree said borough council had no choice but to approve the sign as proposed by the company. It did not require a zoning variance or a special exception and was not subject to conditional use hearing, he said. The borough will not derive any revenue from the sign’s operation, other than for electricity, he said.

“They had every right under our zoning to put it up,” McElree said.

During four public review sessions, council members raised concerns about the signs causing distracted driving, McElree said. But the company provided studies showing no increase in accidents at the dozens of locations it has installed signs throughout the Delaware Valley, he said.

The company did agree to dim the sign at night and to not allow rapid changes of content or flashing images, said McElree. It also will not display adult content, he said.

Catalyst will also allow the borough to advertise community events for free, he said.

“I can’t speak for council,” said McElree of the petition. “But it might be a case of closing the barn door after the horse already got out.”

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