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August 27, 2013

Council won't sign off on sign

Company says it would cost $250K to move it

PEABODY — It’s your serve, Total Outdoor Corp.

Last Thursday, the City Council stated, via a 10-1 vote, that it does not want the 92-foot Total Outdoor pole and billboard on Lowell Street — not even if it’s moved behind the Subway restaurant, down an incline and some distance from the street.

In doing so, the board seemed to brush past misgivings from City Solicitor Michael Smerczynski, leaving Total Outdoor the option of going back to Salem Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead.

“We’re the people that decide what to do in our city,” council President Tom Gould said in an interview, “and we gave a strong response.”

“We don’t like the sign,” Councilor Dave Gravel said. “Why should we vote for it?”

Residents, who were represented at Thursday’s hearing, criticized the sign from its earliest appearance as a blight on their neighborhood.

The judge ruled last fall that the council had no right to deny the needed special permit when it first rejected the billboard. But Total Outdoor made the mistake of then erecting the pole some distance from where Whitehead indicated it should go. That brought a cease-and-desist order from the city, which the judge upheld before indicating that the company needed to go back to Peabody and make its case before the council again.

That happened on Thursday with the same result as before.

“I guess they’ll go back to court,” Gould said. He conceded that he had the impression, after listening to Smerczynski, that the judge is likely to “grant them some relief.”

This time, on the other hand, the council included in its decision specific reasons why the sign should be rejected. With the legal case handled by the city’s full-time lawyer, all the litigation is not likely to cost the city, Gravel said.

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