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Peabody City Council set to vote on billboard issue for third time tonight

Posted by Terri Ogan  August 22, 2013 05:31 PM

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Members of the Peabody City Council are anxious to close the door on the Total Outdoor Corp. billboard saga after over a year of legal disputes, and hope to do so at a regular council meeting tonight.

The councilors are slated to vote for the third time on a special permit proposed by the outdoor advertising company to move the 92-foot structure, which looms over Lowell Street near Route 1, to the rear of the Subway restaurant parking lot.

The billboard, which cost between $200,000 and $300,000 to install, has caused immense controversy within the city since the City Council first voted on it in March 2012.

"The neighborhood and community doesn't want it," said Councilor at Large Anne Manning-Martin. "Since the shenanigans that went on after it was erected, it was made perfectly clear that we don't want the sign at that location. They should just tear it down and sell it for scrap metal for all I care."

The controversy started last spring, when Total Outdoor Corp. presented a plan to the City Council to erect a monopole — a tall structure with a billboard perched on top — next to the Subway. The council rejected the plan in a 6-to-5 vote.
Total Outdoor appealed, and brought the issue to Superior Court in August. Whitehead ruled against the city, allowing the pole to be built. But Mayor Ted Bettencourt said the plan that the company submitted to the court during the trial located the pole behind the building.

Michael Ford, the attorney representing Total Outdoor Corp., could not be reached for comment.

The company installed the pole next to the building in January and in response, the city filed a cease-and-desist order preventing further construction work or the placement of ads on the billboard.

In April the City Council rejected another proposal made by Total Outdoor Corp. to move the monopole behind Subway.

The company appealed and on June 26, after appearing in Superior Court several times over the last year, Judge Howard Whitehead ordered the City Council to start from scratch and vote again on the matter by Sept. 3.

"I'm not a big a fan," said Councilor at Large Dave Gravel. "At this point in time I'm not in favor of putting anything there because of what they did. And certainly where it is, it's obnoxious."

Gravel added that he's disappointed this issue is coming up once again, and is anxious to get the matter taken care of and move on.

Terri Ogan can be reached at oganglobe@gmail.com, or follow her on Twitter.

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