Update on bill #120920 introduced by Callowhill’s District Councilman, Mark Squilla, to allow 10,000 square foot digital signage to be installed on any building over 70 feet, located in the area bounded by 6th, 7th, Willow and Spring Garden. The bill passed 16 – 1.The CNA Board was approached by Jeff Hornstein on October 31, 2012 and asked to support a Bill allowing an illegal billboard in exchange for funds. We said no and then asked Councilman Squilla several times to postpone it so we could have a public meeting for the Callowhill community. This did not happen. The bill was introduced on November 15, heard by the Rules Committee on Dec 5 and passed 16-1by City Council on Dec 13. Many CNA members and citizens of Philadelphia testified at both hearings in opposition to the bill. Mayor Nutter is expected to veto Bill #120920 .Councilman Squilla’s bill had a final hearing before the full Council yesterday, December 13, 2012. In spite of massive community opposition, every Councilman,except Councilman Wilson Goode, voted in favor of the bill. None of the closest neighborhood organization boards, Callowhill, Old City, Society Hill, Wash West, Northern Liberties agreed to testify in favor of the bill in exchange for receiving money from a “community benefits agreement”. Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation also turned down the proposal. Many of us testified against the bill. The agreement was proposed by the owner of the Electric Factory and drafted with the help of Councilman Squilla and Queen Village President, Jeff Hornstein.The parent associations of three public schools chosen by Mr. Hornstein were the primary beneficiaries of the CBA.The volunteer heads of all three parent associations testified in favor of the bill at the Rules Committee Hearing on December 4, 2012. Also at the Rules Committee hearing, Deputy Mayor for City Planning Alan Greenberg and Eva Gladstein, Executive Director of the Planning Commission, testified against the bill. Penn Dot sent a letter to each Councilman stating that Philadelphia stands to lose millions of dollars in federal highway funds for violations of the Highway Beautification Act, if the bill passed. Independence National Historic Park sent a letter to each Councilman objecting to the creation of the electronic billboard district because of potential violations of federal regulations protecting the view shed of national parks.Last year former Councilman DiCicco secured passage of an identical bill which was later vetoed by the mayor because it violated the Federal Highway Beautification Act. Violations would cost the city over 10 million dollars in lost federal funding. In addition, Independence National Historic Park, PennDOT, and the Bureau of Federal Highways were all in opposition when it was previously proposed. Deputy Mayor for City Planning, Alan Greenberger spoke out against this bill before the Council on Rules on November 1, 2011.Buildings wrapped in electronic signs, and large electronic billboards in the proposed area will face south and directly affect Old City, Society Hill and Independence National Historical Park, and are located in an area that prohibits outdoor advertising. (An electronic billboard at 5th and Callowhill is already operating adjacent to this district and is being appealed at a hearing in January.) The purpose of the proposed signage is to attract the attention of drivers on the Vine Street expressway.
Callowhill Neighborhood Association