Robinson is facing potential lawsuits over the installation of LED signs across the township, with advertising giant Lamar Advantage stating they breached the firm's rights under the Constitution.
By Jamie Wiggan
Robinson Township-branded LED signs popping up around the municipality have garnered complaints from residents as to aesthetics and safety, while advertising behemoth Lamar Advantage has taken note and joined with two residents in filing related lawsuits.
The suits accuse Robinson Township of approving signage contracts Lamar claims bypassed multiple legal processes. Specifically, the two suits filed Dec. 10 claim the township violated Pennsylvania’s Open Meetings Law and — as a governing body offering favorable treatment to competitor PTM Advertising — breached Lamar’s rights under the U.S. Constitution.
By approving the signage contracts during an Aug. 3 public meeting under the guise of “welcome signs,” the filings argue Robinson’s commissioners conducted “subterfuge…in order to circumvent the Robinson Zoning Ordinance process for the approval of commercial billboards.”
In recent weeks, signs which feature a variety of advertisements have been activated in places like the entrance to Clever Park and at the busy intersection of Park Manor and Robinson Towne Center boulevards near the Mall at Robinson.
A Robinson resident named Erica, who declined to provide her last name, is not involved in the lawsuits but said she is nevertheless concerned about the location of the Clever Road sign as a potential safety threat to pedestrians.
“I just don’t personally think it’s good placement,” she said. “We have kids walking over to the park… and you just added another distraction to a place where people want to cross the street.”
Erica said she and several other residents felt there was little room provided for public input ahead of the sign construction.
The township zoning ordinance outlines strict requirements for approving billboards, which the suits contend were overlooked when the contracts were approved. In particular, five of the six welcome signs now in place are located within zoning areas that don’t permit billboards.
Billboard applications must also be presented to the township’s planning commission for review before returning to the commissioners for final approval. The suits allege no such processes took place.
Lamar states it has been required to submit to the billboard application processes for its catalogue of advertising signs in Robinson, and has therefore received unequal treatment from a government agency.
Robinson’s zoning ordinance recognizes “government signs” as a separate category from billboards, which are subject to fewer application requirements. However, because the welcome signs sell advertising space to third-party companies, the filings argue they cannot qualify as government signs.
Township Manager Frank Picolino referred questions to solicitor Jack Cambest of Doddaro, Matta & Cambest, who did not return calls requesting comment.
The resident plaintiffs named alongside Lamar on the suit, William Woessner and Steven Brown, both live near the Clever Road sign flagged by Erica as dangerous and distracting.
The civil complaints do not include personal testimony from either of the residents or state their reasons for joining the suit.