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Zoning Board Postpones Coventry Sign Action

SANATOGA PA – Further discussion of, and any decision on, a proposal by Coventry Christian Academy to install an internally lit electronic message board sign on the front lawn of its 699 N. Pleasant View Rd. campus has been postponed by the Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township Zoning Hearing Board until Aug. 18.

A bicyclist sides Saturday (July 18, 2009) past the entrance of Coventry Christian Academy on North Pleasant View Road.

A bicyclist rides Saturday (July 18, 2009) past the entrance of Coventry Christian Academy on North Pleasant View Road.

School representatives and supporters appeared before the board Tuesday night (July 21, 2009), during its advertised meeting at the township municipal building on Buchert Road, to make their case for erection of the sign that would publicize upcoming events, make announcements in the public interest and, Principal Paul Fisher acknowledged, help promote the school.

The academy needs board approval of two variances to make the sign possible. The first would allow the sign itself, which is of a type prohibited under township ordinances in all but one zoning district. The second would permit a sign that exceeds 20 square feet in size; Coventry’s measures 34 square feet.

At least one neighboring property owner publicly opposed the academy’s request, and some board members also made it clear they were concerned about setting precedents that would bring other similar signs to the township.

There were indications the sign might be considered. Board discussion centered on removing two existing signs, restricting a new sign to only one message per day, limiting its lighting, locating it at least 50 feet west of the Pleasant View Road curb and possibly 100 or more feet south of the neighbor, and screening its appearance with plantings. Its postponement gives Coventry time to gather information that addresses those potential conditions.

The school considers its existing sign antiquated and unappealing.

The school considers its existing sign antiquated and unappealing.

The academy’s desire for the sign is in part “about marketing our school, and that we exist as an option for families,” Fisher testified. He noted, however, that it also could play a role in promoting community and township events, and fostering public safety.

The school’s existing sign, Fisher added, is antiquated and unappealing. It relies upon hand-positioned plastic lettering, and was in place when Coventry bought the former Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School building six years ago.

Property owner Karen Cope, whose home borders the school on the north, praised Coventry as being “a great neighbor” but objected to the sign’s lighting. “There’s no bufferage to hide it from my view,” she said.

Township Zoning Officer and Director of Codes Keith Place testified that an externally lit sign of the proper size could be installed by the academy without need of a zoning variance. Fisher told board members that, if variance requests ultimately were denied, the school already had plans drawn for an alternative sign.

Zoning Board Acting Chairman Kenneth Picardi said he was “sympathetic” to the school’s request but had strong reservations about the precedent it could create.

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