By Paul Kurtz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court today heard arguments in Philadelphia for and against the Franklin Institute’s plan to put up an electronic billboard outside their palatial building just off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Franklin Institute attorney Michael Sklaroff describes the proposed sign as modern and modest.

“It’s only six by ten,” he points out.  “It’s  an accessory sign — it’s not outdoor advertising.”

But opponents, led by the activist group Scenic Philadelphia, contend the sign will be a distraction to pedestrians and motorists at a dangerous intersection near Logan Circle.  And plaintiffs’ attorney Samuel Stretton believes more flash would follow.

“If the Barnes does it, if the Rodin does it, if the art museum does it, if the boating houses do it, we have some problems,” he says.

The court must first decide whether private citizens have the legal “standing” to present a challenge.  The Franklin Institutes argues that its closest residential neighbors live about 700 feet away — out of sight of the sign.   But opponents contend they spend lots of time in a park adjacent to the museum.