Peters allows limited signs

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Peters council and members of St. Benedict the Abbot Catholic Church reached a compromise Monday regarding signs advertising the upcoming lenten fish fry that the parish wants to place along public roads.

For years, the township has done battle with area churches over signs promoting fish frys, bingos and other fundraisers. At issue is a township ordinance designed to keep roadside signs to a minimum by limiting their size and how long and where they can be placed.

The ordinance restricts temporary signs by requiring them to be no larger than 6 square feet. The signs must be on the premises that is being advertised, and can't stay up for more than two weeks.

Those regulations conflicted with a request from the parish, which applied for a special permit to place 10 signs and banners at major intersections and bridges during the six-week Lenten period, beginning yesterday.

"We recognize the ordinance is important, so we tried to propose what we thought was a fairly reasonable alternative," said parish representative Fred Abrew, who offered to remove the signs every weekend so they were only visible from Wednesday to Saturday of each week. The church's fish fry is held every Friday for lunch and dinner.

But, council members, including those who are parishioners, said such a permit would be unfair to other businesses and nonprofits that have been denied sign permits.

"I'm not sure we can do that," said Councilman James Berquist, who is also a church member. "It's a tough issue, because I want to do it."

"Where do we stop?" asked Councilwoman Monica Merrell. "There are other churches, other organizations."

Instead, council voted unanimously to allow the parish to place banners on the bridges spanning Bower Hill and East McMurray roads. A second unanimous vote allowed the church to place a promotional sign beneath a directional arrow at the corner of Route 19 and Valleybrook Road. Council further agreed to allow the parish to place signs on private property for the six-week period, though none will be allowed at public intersections.

In other action, council:

• Granted a waiver to developer Williamson & Jefferson Inc. to delay forfeiture of a $64,000 bond to ensure stormwater, landscaping and paving work at Chadwick Estates is completed. The developer promised to complete the work by June 1.

• Denied a petition signed by 15 residents of Hays Road for a traffic calming study. Council members said they would prefer to have at least 20 of the 31 residents sign the petition before taking action. Traffic on the road is likely to be exacerbated when it is repaved this year or next year, township Manager Michael Silvestri said. He expects traffic to also increase after May 15, when a major intersection project at Valleybrook Road and Route 19 begins. That project is expected to close parts of Valleybrook until the summer of 2014, forcing more vehicles to use Hays.

• Asked Mr. Silvestri to investigate whether the township can take any action to prevent planned rate increases of about $5 per month from Comcast Cable. The cost of equipment and services also is set to go up when the changes take effect on March 1. Mr. Silvestri said the rates are approved by the FCC.

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Janice Crompton: or 412-851-1867.


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