SHOULD a digital sign be allowed near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway?

Philadelphians opposed to the Franklin Institute's plan for a digital sign will take their case before Commonwealth Court today.

They will argue that they should have legal standing as users of Aviator Park, adjacent to the science museum, to appeal a zoning variance granted to permit the sign outside the museum at 20th and Winter streets.

The city's Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the digital sign, despite city rules that prohibit such signs on the Parkway.

The Franklin Institute did not respond to a request for comment, but Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger said yesterday that the digital display planned for outside the museum "is just a small sign."

Still, the opposition appears to have plenty of support.

Philip Price, a former member of the old Fairmount Park Commission, said that such a sign "would undermine the architectural beauty of that extraordinary parkway."

"This digital display would prove distracting to pedestrians and drivers at what is already a dangerous intersection," said Mary Tracy, president of Scenic Philadelphia.

Roseanne Adams, a plaintiff in the case, said 20th and the Parkway was already identified in a recent study as one of the most dangerous intersections in the city for pedestrians.

"It's a massive intersection feared by Logan Square residents. I remember one lady saying at a neighborhood meeting, 'You take your life and the life of your child in your hands when you try to cross the Parkway with a baby carriage.' "

And Samuel Stretton, an attorney for the neighbors, said that if one sign is approved, other institutions would want to follow.

"The Parkway as we know and love it will be filled with electronic signs," Stretton said. "Instead of this wonderful Parkway, you're going to have Las Vegas."