PEABODY — A Salem Superior Court judge has vacated his decision from last summer overruling the Peabody City Council and granting a special permit for a controversial 92-foot billboard on Lowell Street overlooking Route 95.
Judge Howard Whitehead ordered that the issue be sent back to the City Council for consideration of Total Outdoor’s latest proposal, saying that since it differs both from the plan that was presented to him and the plan that was presented to the council, the council has not had the appropriate opportunity to review the plan on its merits.
But the judge, noting the “significant delay” in the case so far, also gave the city a strict timetable for taking up the new proposal, requesting that the council complete any action it intends to take on the new plan by Sept. 3.
The order lobs the controversy back to the council, which voted last year to deny the sign company a special permit for the proposed sign, even, as they now contend, if the company offered to put it behind the building.
Then, when Total Outdoor appealed to the Superior Court, the city agreed to a stipulated-fact trial, in which the judge was presented with evidence jointly submitted by the city and the sign company.
It turns out, however, that the plan that was given to the judge showed the sign beside the building, not in front, where it ended up being built.
Total Outdoor insisted during a hearing earlier this year that they had inadvertently given the wrong plan to the judge to consider and that they had planned to put the pole in front of the business all along. They had urged Whitehead to treat the discrepancy as a clerical error.
But Whitehead disagreed, rejecting their request to simply “correct” his order and saying that the different locations were not merely a clerical error, as suggested.