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April 21, 2014

Billboard companies to float trial balloons in Peabody

PEABODY — If it passes the balloon test, it’s a good sign.

In the latest development in Peabody’s billboard saga, two petitioners who are seeking the City Council’s approval for billboards have agreed to float balloons at each site for a day or two to give the public a sense of what the view might be like if the signs are installed.

Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw said the idea came from a recent balloon test in Wenham for a proposed 150-foot cell tower. He approached both advertising companies with the request and they agreed to do it, recognizing the public sensitivity to billboards in the city, especially the 92-foot structure towering over Lowell Street.

He said each proposal should be judged on its own merits and on how it might affect the neighbors’ quality of life. Councilors voted on Tuesday to continue the hearings on each special permit.

The balloons should be up Thursday through Saturday on Forest Street, depending on the weather.

Total Outdoor Corp. wants to erect two 80-foot poles on about 10 wooded acres owned by the Salem Country Club at 267 Forest St. Interstate 95 runs along one side of the land where the two billboards would be located. Four homes and Casella Waste Systems abut the property on the other side.

The signs would face the highway, but at least one of the neighbors is concerned with the proximity to his home, said Saslaw. He said the balloon test may resolve some of those concerns and also pointed out that only neighbors within 300 feet of the poles receive public notice of the hearings.

Meanwhile, another firm, 71 Newbury Street Properties, wants to install digital billboards on Route 1, at 131 and 151 Newbury St. A 60-foot structure would sit in a parking area next to the Best Gas Station at the first site; the second site is behind the Golden Banana and I-95. A double-sided 90-foot sign would be installed there. That section of highway is mostly commercial, but there is a mobile home park to one side and several homes on Tumelty Road on the other side of I-95.

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