Eight millimeters makes all the difference between $500,000 and $180,000.
That difference is all too familiar to billboard owners and advertisers.
Supervisors will hold a public hearing July 23 to amend the billboard ordinance to reflect the permission of a pixel pitch no larger than 20mm from its current 12mm regulation.
A pixel pitch or dot pitch is a specification for pixel-based device that describes the distance, for example, between dots of the same color on the inside of a display screen.
Joe Felici, vice president of Cheltenham-based Keystone Outdoor Advertising, is one such owner. The company owns, locally, two billboards in Cheltenham Township along Route 309.
Felici had qualms about the language in Montgomery Township's Digital Billboard Overlay District public hearing .
He said the ordinance called for a pixel pitch of 12mm, but that is unheard of in the outdoor advertising industry.
A smaller size equals a higher cost for a billboard, Felici said.
"(Twelve milimeter pixels) are for walk up digital signs, like in a casino. It's such a close pitch, its like a TV set. There's no reason for 12 millimeter for outdoor advertising," Felici said in March.
He said most digital billboards are 19 or 20 millimeters.
"I know we're not supposed to talk about financial things, but a 12 millimeter 14-by-48 billboard is $485,000 for one. A 19 or 20 millimeter 14-by-48 is $180,000. It's a tremendous cost. I think that was thrown in to discourage people from putting them up," Felici said.
At the April 23 township work session, planning and zoning director Bruce Shoupe said township planner Van Rieker has been working with a consultant and reviewed the amendment request.
Vincent Mancini, an attorney representing Keystone Outdoor, wrote to the township asking to accept a letter supporting a minor text amendment to the zoning ordinance relating to pixel pitch standards for changeable copy signs.
The ordinance states that a "billboard having internal illuminence shall have a pixel pitch or equivalent resolution of not greater than 12 millimeters." Mancini wrote his client requested the language be amended to use 20mm as the standard.
In the letter, Mancini wrote that Keystone Outdoor's supplier, Watchfire Signs by Time-O-Matic, Inc., advised that 12mm illumination is for locations "involving viewing distances that are quite close, such as pedestrian walk-up locations in stadiums and other entertainment areas."
The advertisements in the township's Billboard Overlay District, Mancini wrote, are viewed at greater distances and call for a larger pitch.
Felici testified in March that the difference in pitch comes down to clarity, although drivers would not "be able to discern any significant difference in resolution between" 12mm and 20mm displays.
Rieker wrote to the township and suggested supervisors consider the amendment.
"He reached out to his contact and said, 'Is this the industry standard? Is this a reasonable request?' What was explained was the 12mm pixel size is more your high definition and the cost could be $750,000 to $1 million versus the 20mm size, which is what we see on the highway, and that could be $250,000 to $350,000," said Shoupe. "That's why the industry doesn't put many of the high definition out there because it is the most cost prohibitive."
Supervisors Vice-Chairman Joe Walsh said it was argued that the 12mm pixel pitch could be construed as a defector and prohibitive against digital billboards because of the cost.
"I'm in favor of the change," Walsh said.
You can read more about the amendments to Montgomery Township's Billboard Overlay District in these related stories: