PEABODY — Her effort to stop the city from leasing land for two billboards went down 9-1 on Jan. 23, but City Councilor Anne Manning Martin predicted that residents would be furious.
In fact, she’s counting on councilors getting an earful and is asking for reconsideration of the vote at the Feb. 6 meeting.
“I have been contacted by dozens of constituents upset about this,” she told The News. “And I’m hoping, given time to think about the vote, that my colleagues will have had a change of heart.”
The reconsideration process allows for no debate, City Clerk Tim Spanos said, just a simple vote on whether to reopen the issue.
Although they voted in favor of leases along Route 128, mostly out of sight for residents, councilors are generally fed up with the proliferation of billboards in Peabody. The city is especially vulnerable, because so many highways pass through.
Some councilors are the exception, however, including Ward 3 Councilor Jim Moutsoulas. He sees the structures as a sign of prosperity.
“I think more are coming,” he told colleagues. “And I’ll tell you that I really don’t have a problem with them.”
Nor has he gotten calls complaining about them, he added. “I’ll tell you what bothers me. I go through Peabody Square and I don’t see signs.”
He concluded that billboards are “a plus for the city.” Owners must pay up to $25,000 per year per billboard.
Lawyer Jack Keilty thinks he may have caught the City Council with its defenses down. A bylaw restricting the height of billboards to 60 feet may have been nullified due to a clerical error. “In regards to 60 feet, there is no provision currently,” City Clerk Tim Spanos said.
Keilty pointed to a recent permit allowing Total Outdoor Corp. a billboard off Route 1 that he was required to reduce to 60 feet. He speculated that the agreement could now be undone.