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Electronic sign for Easton park could signal end to legal problem

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: May 10 2013 11:17:57 AM CDT
Updated On: May 10 2013 11:18:37 AM CDT
EASTON, Pa. -

An electronic sign that would be placed in a remote wooded area of a park in Easton and be visible from Route 22 could solve a legal problem and bring in as much as $765,000 to the city over the next two decades.

Easton City Council will further discuss a proposed 20-year lease with Adams Outdoor Advertising for a one- or two-sided sign in Hackett Park at its May 22 meeting in the Easton Community Center, 9th and Washington streets.

Adams filed a lawsuit against the city for not having zoned areas where billboards are permitted, after a proposed billboard atop Frank & Dot's Beer Depot, 102 Bushkill St., was rejected last year.

The city has since amended the zoning ordinance, creating areas where billboards are permitted.

Assistant city solicitor Joel Scheer said at this week's council meeting that Adams would consider withdrawing its suit over the Frank Dot's billboard if council approved the lease for the sign, which would be seen by motorists traveling along Route 22 near 13th Street.

One council member has already stated his opposition to the lease. Dr. Roger Ruggles told Scheer and his colleagues on council, "I am very much against this. I don't want to see a digital sign at Hackett Park."

Ruggles is concerned that because of a 500-foot line of sight requirement in the lease, some trees in the park would have to be cut down.

Mayor Sal Panto said he is worried that if the lease is rejected, "we get the [Adams] billboard above Frank and Dot's."

Atty. Scheer said that the lease requires Adams to seek planning and zoning approvals before the sign is erected, noting that when the zoned areas allowing billboards were created, "We took pains to protect the public from things you might not always like."

City administrator Glenn Steckman assured council, that if the lease is approved, "We won't have a situation like Palmer Township."

Steckman was referring to an ongoing controversy between a company that erected a large electronic sign along Route 22, between the Route 33 and 25th Street exits, and Palmer Township residents complaining about light pollution.

Steckman said the money paid to the city over the 20-year lease -- $491,000 for a one-sided electronic billboard, $765,000 for a two-sided sign -- would go into a fund for capital improvements at Hackett Park.

Steckman predicted the sign, which the lease limits to no more than 14 feet in height and 48 feet in length, would have "minimal impact on [city] residents or people playing in the park."