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Robinson Township rethinks billboard rules

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:58 p.m.

After being challenged in court several times since 2007, Robinson is considering updating its laws to include specific rules for erecting electronic billboards.

“All the township is doing is essentially taking the guidance of the Commonwealth Court in an attempt to modernize its ordinance with respect to billboards,” said Bruce Boni, a Point Breeze-based special counsel representing the township.

After a public hearing, commissioners on Monday tabled a vote scheduled on the amendment until it receives comment on it from the Allegheny County Planning Commission.

Since 2007, Green Tree-based Lamar Advertising Co. has sought to erect an electronic billboard at 5320 Steubenville Pike. After the commissioners approved the conditional use to allow it, the estate of Richard Lang, owner of adjacent, vacant property, appealed the decision in the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. Lawyers for the estate alleged the billboard would violate numerous provisions of Robinson's ordinance, including setbacks, proximity to a property line of a church, sign size and height limitations.

In June, the state Commonwealth Court upheld a June 2011 Common Pleas decision that favored Lang. Among its reasons were Lamar failed to meet as many as 14 ordinance requirements.

Robinson's proposed amendment, if approved, would extend the distance allowed between billboards from 750 feet to 2,000 feet. It also would expand the allowable size from 150 square feet to 300 square feet.

The amendment also lays out other rules, including prohibiting lights from operating between midnight and 5 a.m., prohibiting the display of animation or movement of the message display, and requiring the messages to remain unchanged for at least six seconds.

Lamar filed a new conditional-use application for an electronic billboard on Nov. 11, but the ordinance amendment would have to be adopted before that application would be considered, Planning Director Rick Urbano said.

Christopher Lang, executor of his father's estate, declined to comment at Monday's meeting, saying only, “We keep winning, and they keep appealing it.”

Several people spoke against the amendment during the public hearing, but none of them was a Robinson resident.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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