Harrison blocks billboard along Alter Road, visible from Route 28 | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Harrison blocks billboard along Alter Road, visible from Route 28

Brian C. Rittmeyer
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Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
John Oliver, of Oliver Development, argues for why he should be allowed to put a billboard on land where they are not permitted in Harrison before the township’s Zoning Hearing Board on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. The board denied his request.

A man wanting to place a billboard visible from Route 28 in Harrison says he may try to do it in another municipality after being denied a variance to put one on land in the township.

Harrison’s zoning hearing board denied the variance requested by John P. Oliver of Oliver Development to place a billboard on property along Alter Road near Saxonburg Road.

Oliver appealed to the board after the township denied his request for a zoning certificate to place a billboard on the 3.6-acre parcel. It’s located in the township’s conservation zoning district where billboards are not allowed.

Harrison allows billboards, subject to limitations, only in its manufacturing districts.

Several area residents who live on nearby Stobert Lane spoke against allowing the billboard. Township Solicitor Emily Mueller also lodged an objection on behalf of the township.

Following the hearing, Oliver said he’d have to review the board’s decision and decide if he wants to appeal it any further.

“I didn’t think there’d be this much objection,” he said.

If it won’t work in Harrison, Oliver said he may take it across the highway to Fawn.

“That’s probably what I’ll do,” he said.

Oliver said he is related to, but his company is separate from, Oliver Outdoor, which is fighting in court to place a billboard in Tarentum at the Tarentum Bridge.

In arguing for the Harrison billboard, Oliver said there is no other practical use for the land, which he said has a deep ravine running through it and was leftover from the construction of Route 28.

The “highest and best use” of the land would be for a billboard, he argued.

“I don’t know what else you could use it for,” he told the board.

Mueller noted there are 28 permitted or conditional uses for property in the conservation zoning area. While she said Oliver did not show that any of them could not be done there, he said none of them would work there.

If Oliver was granted a variance to place a billboard at that location, he would need another due to its size. The sign he proposed to put up is much larger than that allowed in areas of the township where billboards are permitted.

Oliver’s proposed billboard would be 14 feet by 48 feet; the maximum allowed in the township is 15 feet by 20 feet.

Oliver called that size odd.

No residents spoke in support of the billboard.

Dan Gorentz, who lives with his wife on Stobert, was concerned both about his home and traffic on Route 28.

“That light is going to be right in our bedroom,” he said.

Gorentz said he can hear wrecks on Route 28, and is worried about the distraction a billboard could cause.

“I think it’s a danger to have it there,” he said.

Tara Thieke doesn’t live near the billboard location, but said what she likes about the area is that there aren’t a lot of billboards, which she called “visual pollution.”

Jennifer McGraw said she bought a home on Stobert five years ago.

“It’s beautiful there,” she said. “It’s all wooded, it’s country, it’s perfect. We don’t need billboard signs and light. When I look in the sky I want to see stars.”

Oliver argued there are benefits to outdoor advertising. If allowed, he said the township would be able to use it for safety messages such as Amber Alerts and promoting events.

“I respect this is your neighborhood,” he said. “We donate a lot back to the community. It can be a win-win situation.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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