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Greensburg zoning board changes course on electronic sign

| Friday, March 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Greensburg's city planner urged a board this week to reverse an earlier decision she made to deny an electronic billboard off Towne Square Drive.

Barbara Ciampini told the city's zoning hearing board on Wednesday to approve the replacement of a print billboard owned by developer John Wagner, of Wagner Outdoor Advertising, with the electronic one.

“That would be my recommendation: to overturn the denial,” Ciampini said.

The board unanimously approved the 11-by-22-foot facing for the billboard, which will be attached to the supports of the current print billboard in Greensburg Commerce Park.

Ciampini explained she originally denied the new billboard because drawings were not to scale and she believed the sign would flash.

The images on the new billboard typically will change every six to 10 seconds daily, said Woody Weissinger, project consultant.

The images dim based on available lighting, and no houses are within 1,500 feet of the billboard, attorney Scott Avolio said.

In addition to retailers, the billboard will offer Amber alerts, weather warnings and community announcements, Weissinger said.

Workers can manipulate pictures on the new billboard from their offices, rather than climbing up scaffolding to the older billboard to make changes, Weissinger said.

The billboard will be seen daily by about 30,000 motorists using nearby Route 30, Avolio said.

Wagner said he hopes to have the new billboard in operation within six months.

In another matter, the board unanimously denied a variance — a special zoning approval — for a pergola Wendy and Paul Mica put up outside their North Maple Avenue home.

The property owners said they wanted the pergola mainly to use for their daughter's high school graduation party in a few weeks.

City zoning requires that structures be at least 10 feet from a neighbor's property line, unless special circumstances apply. The pergola was about 6 feet from a neighbor's property, according to testimony.

At first, some board members said they wanted to find a way for the couple to keep the pergola. But solicitor Lou DeRose cautioned that the law stops the board from granting a variance when the resulting hardship was created by the property owner.

In this case, the couple could have had a smaller pergola in the same area, testimony showed.

Granting a variance would create an unwanted precedent, Ciampini added.

“That's the concern of the city of Greensburg,” she said. “We feel bad. We're stuck in the legality of it.”

Had the couple come to her for a permit, Ciampini said, she could have explained regulations and avoided the need for them to tear down the pergola.

Wendy Mica said she didn't know a permit was needed to erect the structure.

Paul Mica asked the board to let him take down the structure during the summer.

Ciampini indicated that should not be a problem.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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