, Salem, MA

February 21, 2013

Battle over billboard commences in Peabody

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — The irresistible force is going to court against the immovable object.

Total Outdoor Corp. is refusing to move the 90-foot Lowell Street billboard that city officials believe was sited in the wrong place. Consequently, city officials are taking action.

“We’re going to court on March 7,” City Council President Tom Gould said. “We’re adamant we’re not going to let it stay where it is.”

Residents and officials reacted in shock after construction of the single tower was completed in January. It looms over Lowell Street, although its supposed intent was to be seen from Route 1. In response, Mayor Ted Bettencourt filed a cease-and-desist order meant to prevent any advertising on the double billboard signs.

“I want the pole taken down,” he said then, “and I want the pole put behind the building where it’s supposed to be.”

Permission to build the structure, called a monopole, only came after a council veto was overridden by Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead. After a visit to the area, Whitehead determined that there were already large billboards in place, making the council decision unreasonable.

But city officials now believe that Total Outdoor Corp. used the wrong site plan in placing the billboard where it is.

“No matter which way you look at it,” City Councilor Anne Manning-Martin said, “it’s not the city’s mistake. And I’m not crying a river for Total Outdoor’s $250,000 mistake.”

“There’s strong feeling about this,” Gould said.

Both Manning-Martin and Gould believe the judge’s order provided for the pole to be located far behind a building facing Lowell Street. Even in using the “wrong” plan, Manning-Martin said, they placed the pole 6 feet from where it was supposed to be.

The two are hopeful that the court will send the matter back to the council.

“I want them to come back and reapply,” said Manning-Martin, who stressed that the council never approved putting the pole anywhere. “I don’t know what they pulled, but I’m going to find out.”