Opponents line up against waterfront billboard

A zoning hearing to place three flatwall billboards on a vacant property along Columbus Boulevard was put off so the developer could continue negotiations with SCRUB, the blight advocacy group, and concerned neighborhood groups.

The developer, Riverview Development Corp., is seeking the variance for 1100 S. Columbus Blvd. Though it won the support of the Pennsport Civic Association, an array of neighborhood activists showed up at a hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustment to voice their concerns.

Among them was Amy Rivera, a lawyer representing the Queen Village Neighbors Association, who said that residents of that neighborhood would be able to see the billboard and that it caused “massive visual clutter.”

And Steven Weixler of the Central Delaware Advocacy Group told the ZBA that billboards “are a prohibited use” in the Central Delaware Overlay, a special zoning district for the waterfront that includes the site of the proposed billboard.

He added that the group hadn’t been invited to a presentation by the developer given to the Pennsport neighborhood group, as did SCRUB staff attorney Nicolas Clark.

For his part, Ronald Patterson, the lawyer representing Riverview, objected that all the opponents of the billboard were out of order.

ZBA chairwoman Lynette Brown-Sow appeared to sympathize with Patterson’s position — at least regarding SCRUB. She said that the organization couldn’t be a party of interest unless it was representing a resident of the neighborhood.

Clark said the group was acting as an organizational party of interest.

The building on which the billboard would be affixed as been vacant for about 20 years, according to Rivera.

The substantive portion of the hearing, which will include testimony by both sides, will occur at a later hearing, the date of which has yet to be determined.

Billboards along the waterfront have generated considerable controversy recently, with City Council intervening to legalize a sign for a South Philadelphia strip club.

Contact the reporter at acampisi@planphilly.com

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