A new LED sign for Lansdale Catholic will soon replace the old sign at Lansdale Avenue and Seventh Street — and it will allow Lansdale Borough use of the sign to notify commuters and residents in emergency situations.
The zoning board unanimously approved 3-0 the request for a variance from LC and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to allow the sign, contingent upon the sign does not blink, animate or scroll; does not move from its location or change in size; does not change type on average of no more than once a day; and Lansdale Catholic does allow it to be available to the borough for emergency messages.
Representing Attorney Frank Bartle told the board the sign would replace the existing sign and remain the same size. The LED message board would be about 29 inches by 87 inches in area.
"Messages would be stationary: No animation, no scrolling, no blinking. (It) would allow LC to change content electronically, where the message now is manual," Bartle said. "Lansdale Catholic uses (the sign) as a means of communication with the students, parents and community at-large. This will allow Lansdale Catholic to keep students, parents and the community at large informed on a routine basis."
Bartle said the message on the LED would change on average of once time per day.
Lansdale Borough's Associate Director of Code Enforcement W. Scott Leatherman initially denied a sign permit application from LC and the Archdiocese because Section 122-1912 C of the borough code prohibits changeable electronic variable message signs.
The applicants appealed the decision, requesting two things: a definition of "changeable electronic sign" as it relates to this application and a variance to allow the sign in the A-Residential District.
Bartle's argument was the ordinance referred to signs that generally have animation, blinking or scrolling messages, and thus, the sign should be allowed by right.
Council and the borough planning commission had already passed resolutions recommending approval of variance relief, Bartle said.
Bartle said if the zoning board approved the variance alone, then he would withdraw the appeal requesting definition of the ordinance.
That's exactly what happened in this case Tuesday night.
John Wichner, of traffic planning firm McMahon and Associates, testified that the LED sign would not be a distraction or nuisance to drivers.
"We all know the sign is there. It is less visible than you would expect. It's not very visible approaching northbound Lansdale Avenue and East Seventh Street," Wichner said. "As you come through the horizontal curve on Lansdale Avenue from Knapp, it is easily viewed within 200 feet from the location."
Lansdale Councilmen Rich DiGregorio and Jack Hansen appeared at the hearing to throw their support behind the sign.
"I think it's a nice thing to help the community out," DiGregorio said. "The biggest thing in the community is letting residents know what's happening."
Hansen — who initiated a motion at a recent council meeting to throw support behind the sign — said Lansdale Catholic is part of the Lansdale community and it showed its support of that by choosing to stay in the borough rather than moving to another community.
"We need to keep up with the revitalization in Lansdale. We can see the efforts taken to support businesses, residents and the community," Hansen said. "When I look at this request, I find it difficult to say no."
Hansen said the use of the LED board by the borough will be helpful in the future to notify residents of an Amber Alert, of street closures and of wires down.
"It will help our first responders," he said.
Resident Neil Migliaccio, of Hemlock Street, said Lansdale Catholic is a big asset in the borough.
"You need to do anything you can to go along with this request," he said.