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Peabody City Council sticks to a 'no' on giant Lowell Street billboard

Posted by Terri Ogan  April 11, 2013 12:49 PM

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After months of legal dispute, the Peabody City Council has rejected a proposal made by Total Outdoor Corp. to move the large billboard structure on Lowell Street that has continued to infuriate residents and city officials.

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The outdoor advertising company proposed to move the 92-foot structure behind the Subway restaurant next to Route 1, as opposed to keeping it where it currently stands directly next to the restaurant.

The City Council, which had eight members in attendance at Wednesday night’s meeting, voted unanimously on two motions: one to deny the plan put forth, and the other to discuss any future discussion in public.

Prior to the regular public meeting, the City Council met behind closed doors with City Solicitor Michael Smerczynski in an executive session to review the proposal.

The council stands by its initial rejection of the structure and wants the pole down.

“I don’t think the council is going to change,” said Councilor at Large James Liacos. “We’ve already made our minds up that we don’t want this and I think the community is behind us.”

Total Outdoor appealed the City Council’s rejection to put the pole up in the first place, and brought the issue to Superior Court in August. Judge Howard Whitehead ruled against the city, allowing the pole to be built.

“The judge seems to think that this is a good thing for Peabody,” Liacos said. “I wish that he would take a look at this pole and realize that this is a hideous addition to Peabody.”

Shocked and frustrated at the sight of the structure, which went up in January, Peabody officials issued a cease-and-desist order to prevent further construction work or the placement of ads on the billboard. The city building inspector also issued a removal order requiring Total Outdoor to take the pole down.

During a hearing on March 18, the company asked Whitehead to allow the pole to remain where it was, saying a clerical error resulted in the wrong plan being submitted to the court in August. Total Outdoor also asked the judge to overturn both the city’s cease-and-desist order and the removal order.

The judge denied both requests and said there was no clerical error in the court’s decision on where to install the pole.

At this point, in order for Total Outdoor to move the pole to the previously approved spot, the company would need a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. This would address any potential issues with nearby abutters because the billboard could infringe on their property.

"The judge will have to make some kind of determination about what to do with it [the pole]," said City Councilor Robert Driscoll. "The neighbors have seen the size of the billboard. They’re not going to be proactive about it."

Total Outdoor’s lawyer, Michael Ford, said in a previous interview that he will file for a motion for relief, but could not comment on when he plans to do so.

The City Council once again conveyed its stance on the issue, but a resolution is out of its control.

“We rejected it the first time around and we’re not happy with it being in either spot so we’ll see what happens,” said Council at Large Tom Gould. “We denied their proposal and we’re putting it back in their hands [Total Outdoor Corp.], or the judge’s hands. “

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