An electronic billboard on West Street, adjacent to Interstate 93.
This article on the warrant for Monday’s special Town Meeting generated significant heat at Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting.
About 20 people urged the selectmen to reject a proposed zoning change to allow an electronic billboard on land owned by the Mobil station. The “hosting” fee the town could receive – between $25,000 and $50,000 a year, according to the article background - is insignificant, speakers said, compared with the anticipated loss of home values in the area because of a billboard.
Woburn Alderman Darlene Mercer-Bruen also asked the town to join Woburn which, she said, has stood “strong and tall” against the “ugly” sign boards.
Some people emailed their support for the billboard, Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner said.
The selectmen voted 2-2 on the article. Selectmen Ben Tafoya and Rick Schubert voted against the warrant article. Selectmen James Bonazoli and John Arena voted for the article go to Town Meeting for discussion by the full body. The 12 people who addressed the selectmen Tuesday reside in the area. Eleven opposed the prospective billboard.
A billboard – a non-electronic one -- is allowed now at the Mobil station, with a special permit from the zoning Board of Appeals. The appeals board rejected a request for one, Hechenbleikner said, a couple of years ago. The Outdoor Advertising Board has allowed electronic signs since the fall, according to the town manager.
The state Outdoor Advertising Board would require the approval of the Board of Selectmen to allow the billboard, Hechenbleikner said.
If an electronic sign was allowed on the West Street property, two billboards on north Main Street would be removed within a certain period of time.
The idea of allowing billboards on town-owned land arose from a Financial Forum in 2010, as a way for the town to raise revenue, according to Tuesday’s discussion. The Finance Committee recommended the proposed zoning change 8-0 earlier this month, on Jan. 9.