Many words could describe developer Abe Atiyeh but “diplomat” is probably not one of them.
What was supposed to be an “olive branch” discussion Atiyeh agreed to have with neighbors of a digital billboard in Palmer Township could wind up becoming akin to pouring a can of gasoline on a fire.
The fire, of course, is manifested in a 14-by-48 foot electronic billboard on the southside of Route 22 between the 25th Street exit and Route 33.
That billboard has upset, annoyed and all-around infuriated neighboring residents who say the light coming from the sign is ruining the quality of their lives, lowering the value of their homes and plain old annoying the heck out of them, day and night.
While the neighbors don't like the sign, they have come to accept the reality that it is there to stay.
“It is what it is” Palmer Township President David Colver said in essence during last month’s meeting.
“As far as the township is concerned, it’s done. It’s approved. It meets all levels. It’s not going anywhere,” he told irate residents during the township’s May 28th meeting. “We go through this week after week after week and we’ll tell you the same thing week after week after week, but at some point it’s going to have to sink in that the sign is there and it’s not going anywhere.”
Colver added that night that Atiyeh was willing to meet with the concerned residents about installing trees to cut down on the light that neighbors allege is intrusive into their homes.
During Tuesday night’s board of supervisors’ meeting resident Chuck Diefenderfer reported of a recent discussion he had with Atiyeh whose remedy would be to “move the sign 30 feet closer to the highway and change the angle” to cut down on the obtrusive light.
The total cost to Atiyeh to accomplish this alteration would be about $50,000, according to Diefenderfer.
“I talked to several neighbors,” Diefenderfer told supervisors. “And everybody felt that wasn’t going to benefit anybody.”
By moving the sign 30 feet closer to the highway, Atiyeh’s sign would be right on the edge of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s property line.
“He really wasn’t that interested in the vegetation (planting trees) thing,” Diefenderfer said.
“Our discussion was really the vegetation,” Colver responded.
Diefenderfer continued that he also offered Atiyeh other options, such as turning the sign off between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. , a prospect which held no interest for Atiyeh.
“Well, where he is right now is legal, but if he wants to move it an inch closer...” Colver said as his voice tailed off.
Then it would become another matter entirely, subject to a township zoning variance, which of course would require a public hearing, according to township solicitor Charles Bruno.
The township agreed to test the brightness of the lights yet again overnight, after other neighboring residents complained Tuesday night that it was actually getting brighter.