The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 14, 2013

Richland nears sign decision

David Hurst

JOHNSTOWN — Richland Township officials are a step closer to a plan to regulate electronic billboards.

After months of mulling ways to control the increasingly popular, LED-lit digital signs, township leaders have crafted an amendment to their zoning ordinance that would set dusk-to-dawn brightness level guidelines. Supervisors said the move is aimed at preventing the signs from becoming roadside distractions.

Township officials and a local billboard company representative described the current version of the law as “less restrictive” than earlier proposals.

As drafted, the township’s standards would require digital signs to be no brighter than

7 percent of the typical digital billboard’s total brightness, based on the national average, Solicitor Gary Costlow said.

The township will test the brightness levels with a hand-held meter if issues arise or complaints arrive, Supervisor Robert Heffelfinger said.

The current plan also prohibits the electronic billboards from being placed in residential zones, limiting them to undeveloped property and in certain commercial and manufacturing areas by special exception.

Over the past year, brightness levels became the main focus of the township’s plans to regulate the digital signs. Several workshops were held with local sign companies.

“I‚Äąthink these guidelines will be a lot more user-friendly. It’s a proactive stance,” Minahan Sign Co. sales manager Ralph Lovette said at the township’s Nov. 4 meeting.

The supervisors voted this month to advertise the zoning changes and will be able to consider the billboard regulations for tentative approval at their Dec. 2 meeting.

David Hurst covers Richland Township for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at