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September 24, 2013

Digital billboards coming to Peabody

PEABODY — Get ready for the look of digital Peabody.

Cove Outdoor Advertising has entered the competition to erect the first full-sized digital billboard in Peabody. This one, which hasn’t yet gone before the City Council, would be double-sided, 14 by 48 feet, and slated for Jubilee Drive at a spot visible to drivers on Route 95 traveling in both directions. If approved, it will be the third — two more are already permitted for Route 1 but not yet constructed.

Moreover, according to City Councilor Dave Gamache, whose ward contains all three sites, virtually every billboard in Peabody can potentially be transformed into a digital display — which is usually powered by LED lights — without permission needed from the city.

“All they would have to do is just file for it,” he said.

For his part, Gamache has no problem with the high-tech signs. “I think digital is better than the static billboards. They’re more appealing; they’re cleaner.”

For the billboard owner, they have obvious advantages. They won’t require a crew to change the message — that can be done electronically. Lawyer David Ankeles, who represents Cove, pointed out that the company is donating up to 25 percent of the billboard space to the community. In other words, Peabody can use it to instantly announce events, like the International Festival, or warn of a traffic accident or alert drivers that a snow emergency is in effect.

Ankeles added that the Jubilee Drive billboard, located near the Extended Stay Hotel, “is in a perfect place.” Since no residence is near it, “it’s what I think everyone would want.”

Additionally, it complies with a recent Peabody bylaw limiting billboards to Route 1 and Route 95. The billboard is expected to run “continuously.”

Another advantage for the city is the fee for installing a digital billboard — $25,000 with another $25,000 due annually to the city, he said. The fee for a static billboard is $15,000. State law limits the number of electronic billboards by mandating they be 1,000 feet apart; static billboards require 500 feet apart.

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