John McIntire wrote a column in the C-P. Andrew Ellsworth of Friendship wrote a letter:
McIntire lacks an understanding of the approval process for signage and zoning ordinances.
McIntire’s proposed action is, in fact, illegal under the state Municpalities Planning Code.
Can we get an open-source legal opinion on this? We don’t see the acting City Solicitor being much help.
The Comet is positive that the letter-writer is wrong. The city has established for itself some limitations on what can be allowed. It has in no way constrained itself from restricting a specific mega-sign for any reason the community deems appropriate.
Why is city planning generally not handled in a courtroom? Why not leave it up to a judge?
City planning goes before a large deliberative body, who is appointed by the mayor — an elected official. The whole process depends on open public comments before any rulings.
Even after that, city planning kicks back up to City Council — more elected officials.
Every step of this process suggests that the people get to have a say. The lack of an ordinance specifically forbidding this mega-sign from the U.S. Steel Tower in no way prohibits the City from exercising its discretion.
The letter writer sneers that the City can not “interpret the ordinances at their whim based on popular discontent.”
As long the interpretation is honest — it’s all about popular discontent.
There are reasons that so many Pittsburghers are so ill-disposed towards the big sign. We are talking about our tallest building, and one that is also a testament to our industrial heritage.
The sign would be by far the largest, absolutely dominating our skyline — and frankly, UPMC has not yet earned the same civic status as say, Heinz, or Mellon Bank. Status that must grow from years and decades of meaningful civic partnership.
The “legal argument” is a naked power grab: it is meant to help big business hijack powers rightly vested in the political sphere. It should be stopped before it sets worse and worse precedents.
The letter writer pleads that if we reject the application of UPMC:
That would follow the dangerous precedent set out by the Bush administration — selectively obeying laws that were meaningfully crafted by other parts of government.
There are so many things wrong with that analogy, we cannot even get started. The ordinances of which we speak are intended to be interpreted strictly, and to leave all other powers in the hands of the executive and legislative branches of government.
Anybody who can find a way to drag George W. Bush into this, is working awfully hard in support of UPMC’s latest power play.