By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — The march of the billboards continues in Peabody.
Despite the angry reaction to a 92-foot billboard on Lowell Street, residents should brace themselves for a bevy of new, double-sided signs set to go up in the near future.
One billboard was erected yesterday on the grounds of the Northshore Mall. Another four are scheduled to go up on Route 1. In addition, two electronic billboards — one a conversion of an existing sign — also slated for Route 1 are awaiting state approval.
The billboard at the mall will be seen mostly from Route 128. City councilors acquiesced to it after pleas from management at the mall, one of the city’s biggest taxpayers.
Ironically, the signs are appearing after the City Council rewrote zoning regulations in an effort to limit or ban billboards everywhere except along Route 1 and Interstate 95.
“These were already permitted,” Councilor Dave Gamache said of the five billboards. Permitting took place last fall in the wake of a court ruling slapping down the city’s rejection of the Lowell Street billboard.
Five of the billboard locations approved then have now been given an OK by the state Department of Transportation, according to DOT spokesman Mike Verseckes.
Each will measure 14-by-48 feet. Under state rules they are required to be 500 feet apart, or 1,000 feet for electronic signs.
Three approvals were on behalf of Total Outdoor Corporation and two for Mansfield Outdoor Advertising.
With several major highways dissecting the community, Peabody is a prime location for roadside signs. Moreover, according to Councilor Jim Liacos, the likelihood is that advertising companies are seeking permits now in anticipation of changes in regulations and technology.
Liacos suspects they have asked for static signs in anticipation of a future where “they’ll ask to change them over to electronic signs.”
The controversial Lowell Street sign, meanwhile, remains in billboard limbo. It won approval from a judge only to be erected in the wrong spot. A cease-and-desist order followed, forbidding the placement of any sign on the $250,000 edifice.
The City Council recently declined an offer by Total Outdoor Corporation to move the sign farther away from the road. The council just wants the whole thing gone.
In terms of future permits, the affair has stung them, indicates council President Tom Gould. “The council is going to go over any billboard proposal with a fine-tooth comb,” he said.