A truth in jest

Chadds Ford Zoning Hearing
Board Chairman Bob Reardon made a telling comment during a hearing on signage
for the Sunoco gas station at routes 1 and 202.

The new owner of the property
applied for a variance regarding the total square footage of signs for the
site. It’s a matter of an existing nonconformity to code going to another
nonconformity, with the new application for 4.8 percent more square feet of
signs than had previously been approved.

Mr. Reardon’s comment was that
it’s “unusual for an applicant to come in with a request for nonconforming
signage and not leave with something smaller. This feels like a defeat.”

While the comment was likely
made tongue-in-cheek, many a truth has been spoken in jest. The undeniable
truth is that there is an aversion to signage in the township and many people
think this reflects an anti-business attitude.

The aversion to signs is no
secret. Zoning Board members as well as Planning Commission members have long
made reference to it—even joking about who’s behind it—albeit in hushed tones.
The facts are undeniable.

The current Board of
Supervisors in Chadds Ford doesn’t want the Hannum’s Harley Davidson Motorcycle
dealership to park trucks and trailers with the company name in front of the
shop because they deem that to be signage in excess of what the code allows.

Hannum’s also needs to get
permission to put up a tent for a sale and all businesses need to know that
they shouldn’t even attempt to use balloons and streamers for a special event.
That’s a major no-no.

It’s no secret that Supervisor George Thorpe is always on the
lookout for unapproved signs on poles as he drives through the township. One
Easter Sunday he was driving around with a stepladder in the back of his car
and he was climbing up and down removing the offensive ads. It was an
interesting way to spend an Easter morning.

It would be understandable if
the township’s boards and commissions would deny the use of flashing neon
signs, but no one is asking for that.

To be fair, though, the board
has shown some signs of relenting. When the economy turned upside down,
township supervisors finally lightened up a little. Since 2009, some businesses
may have a small, A-frame sign in front of their stores during business hours
as long as the signs meet certain size specifications, are taken in at night
and the owner pays a fee of $125.

There is also an updated
ordinance that allows—or perhaps controls— billboards and dynamic signs. It has
yet to be seen how that will play out.

There are people in Chadds Ford
who truly don’t care about businesses. One person even said in an
off-the-record comment that she didn’t care if they all went under.

Such attitudes make for a
contentious relationship and an unhealthy economic climate. It leads to a
zoning board chairman saying that allowing a business to put up the signs it
wants is a defeat. That reflects an inappropriate us or them attitude.

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