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Residents upset about billboard

| Wednesday, June 7, 2006

North End resident Tom Capella represented 51 of his Connellsville neighbors who signed a petition protesting a billboard at Monday's city council meeting.

The double billboard, about 50 feet high, is located along Route 119 at West Gibson Avenue, the main entrance to the Connellsville Municipal Authority. Currently, both signs are blank.

"It's a humongous billboard," Capella told council. "It's a hazard to residents and those paying their sewage bills."

Capella said the distracting nature of such a large double sign would cause accidents.

He added the area is zoned commercial and industrial, "but most is residential. We want to be kept safe. Those homes have been there 100 years. There are more families than commercial property."

He estimated there are 35 to 40 homes in the North End neighborhood.

Councilman David McIntire called the sign "the biggest I've ever seen. The sign looks awful. The sign permit was granted under the old sign ordinance."

The new ordinance, effective in March, regulates the size and placement of billboards.

Councilman Charles Matthews said he voted for the sign to prevent a lawsuit, since it did not violate the ordinance in effect at the time of the vote.

"I thought PennDOT would deny the permit if there was a problem. I did not know about the safety problem until you spoke," he told Capella.

PennDOT approved the sign.

City solicitor Gretchen Mundorff said the sign may not be considered a danger under the legal definition of "sight view obstruction." Under that definition, an object prevents a driver from seeing the roadway.

However, Mundorff said, "Looking up at the sign is a distraction."

She recommended that residents appeal to PennDOT. She said that she and city council will review the sign's specifications.

Mayor Judy Reed said the city will send a letter to PennDOT.

"There is not enough time for people to observe the sign. It's oversized for use in a city," she said. "I have a problem with the height of the sign. I recommend that everyone call PennDOT."

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