Hearings on Digital Billboard Use Variance – Nov 14 & 16

by Beth Melo on October 27, 2016

Post image for Hearings on Digital Billboard Use Variance – Nov 14 & 16

Above: A petitioner is seeking ZBA approval to install a large digital billboard at a future auto repair shop to be built at 6-8 Turnpike Road (left side of the image cropped from Google Maps)

As I have written several times now, Town Meeting voters stripped the Zoning Board of Appeals of its power to grant Use Variances.

However, that may have been overstated. Apparently, the ZBA still has the power to grant it for an application filed and accepted before last week’s Town Meeting.

One such application exists. A company is seeking permission to install a large, 24-hour illuminated, digital billboard on Route 9. The location, 6-8 Turnpike Road, is just before Crossing Boulevard on the eastbound side.

Town Code specifically prohibits billboards as well as flashing, moving, changing message and animated signs. Also prohibited is illumination of signs between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am. And the sign would exceed allowed height. The petitioner is “seeking relief” from all of those restrictions.

A public notice for the ZBA’s November 16th 7:00 pm hearing has been posted. The Town Planner has confirmed that the applicant is scheduled to first come before the Planning Board on November 14th.

At a September 28th meeting with the ZBA, the applicant’s attorney William Pezzoni said he will be explaining why the digital billboard is “better than these other billboards in town”. 

At that time, the discussion focused on Lamar Central Outdoor LLC’s appeal of what Pezzoni argued was incorrect enforcement of the application process. (He won that argument.)

Now, Lamar will need to make its case on the merits of its Use Variance and Special Permit request. The ZBA decision deadline is December 30, 2016.

According Southborough Wicked Local, the application is for a 48′ x 14′ billboard. A posted rendering shows it pointed towards westbound traffic.

The applicant hopes to convince the Town that a digital billboard is a resource for the community. (And it looks like some guilt about missing children alerts will be thrown in, to make that case.)

SWL writes:

In its application, Lamar say the town’s bylaw is outdated and the town does not have a digital billboard for Amber Alerts. The company will donate time on the billboard for town services.

For more details, and a rendering of what the sign would look like, click here.

1 SouthboroDave October 27, 2016 at 12:29 PM

I vote NO. Westborough has these and they look horrible. I don’t care to see advertisements on RT9 for anything.

We have signage restrictions for a reason. We shouldn’t allow giant signs b/c they aren’t in keeping with our towns character.

2 say what? October 28, 2016 at 8:23 AM

Another NO vote here too…

I grew up in VT where billboards of any type were outlawed in the late 50s. Thank goodness! When I moved to MA in the 80s I was shocked to see billboards. Obnoxious.

And, as noted above, the illuminated type is not only an eyesore, it’s a potent visual distraction – as though today’s drivers don’t have enough distractions.


3 Sboro1992 October 28, 2016 at 9:47 AM

I may be mistaken – but doesn’t this same signage restriction rule prevent a certain mom & pop pizza ship from putting up a decent sign for their business?

Oh, and not to mention the fact that the 85/30 intersection looks absolutely ridiculous with all THAT signage on the corner!

4 D. McGee October 28, 2016 at 10:55 AM

Given that the citizens decisively voted to strip the ZBA of its power to grant Use Variances, you would hope that the ZBA got the message and denies any applications submitted prior to the vote at the Special Town Meeting. Such applications could then be decided at the Town Meeting, which would reflect the spirit of the citizens’ vote.

As an aside, who has determined that the vote to strip ZBA’s power to grant Use Variances does not apply to existing applications, and can that decision be challenged? To use an extreme example, I would not have been able to open a bar after prohibition was enacted, whether or not I had an application in process!

5 Doreen Ferguson October 28, 2016 at 11:17 AM

The corner of Rt 30/85 was always a corner for nonprofit signage. Not sure how the signs for businesses where permitted.

6 Sboro1992 October 28, 2016 at 1:27 PM

i drove by today and there are 3 for-profit business signs out there.

7 Joe October 28, 2016 at 12:54 PM

The same seems to be going on at Town Center strip mall. Sounds like someone isn’t doing their job by enforcing the bylaws.

8 Allan Bezanson October 29, 2016 at 8:11 AM

This seems to have evolved into a general rant about signs. If you want proof that Southborough is a HIGH CLASS town look no further than 4 Main Street.

9 Sboro1992 October 30, 2016 at 2:07 PM

true that!!

Even just a coat of paint would be a bit of an improvement but I guess it’s like putting lipstick on a pig. ;)

10 Allan Bezanson October 29, 2016 at 8:19 AM
11 Stuck with it October 31, 2016 at 10:27 AM

Does the same person now own both stores?

12 Allan Bezanson October 31, 2016 at 11:03 AM

Don’t know about that. Here’s what people are saying now about our beloved old Fitzy’s.

13 EH October 29, 2016 at 8:40 AM

Beth, do you mind defining use variances. Under the new ruling, how will the use of variances be objected or granted. Does this include variences say if a resident would like to make a home addition.


14 beth October 29, 2016 at 5:44 PM

An addition to a home that will remain a single-family residence, does not require a use variance. If it exceeds a height requirements were is too close to another property, it would need some kind of variance. That is still something the ZBA has the flexibility to grant.

But a use variance is to allow something that is outside of the use defined for the zone. For instance, let’s say this hypothetical house is most in a residentially zoned neighborhood. If someone wanted to tear down the house across the street and build a business there, the business would need a use variance.

In the case of the billboard,, it seems that there is no zone in Southborough that allows the use of an electronic billboard. And that is what the applicant is seeking a variance for.

15 EH October 29, 2016 at 11:31 PM

Thanks Beth!

I don’t like any billboards in town… Especially at the end of my road… Can’t we get rid of all of them :)))

16 Larry Cain October 29, 2016 at 4:01 PM

Comment removed for the move to for a parent violation of company policy.

17 Wendy October 29, 2016 at 10:18 PM

You’re on-point Larry. Anyone else notice how that same attorney is also on the Economic Development Committee??

18 D. McGee October 29, 2016 at 10:08 PM

Who is responsible for the enforcement of the sign bylaw? The Building Inspector?

19 Allan Bezanson October 30, 2016 at 11:38 AM
20 southsider October 31, 2016 at 1:04 PM

What’s in it for us if it’s approved?

21 beth October 31, 2016 at 2:17 PM

You’ll find out on Nov 14/16. But it sounds like they are going to pitch allowing the Town to share some news on the sign. (Though, I don’t know how much or how often.)

22 Kelly Roney November 15, 2016 at 4:25 PM

Not a single reason given by Lamar Outdoor LLC should result in a use variance.

So what if Lamar thinks the town’s zoning code is outdated! It’s the settled opinion of Town Meeting, and it must’ve passed a two-thirds vote.

There’s also no hardship. This is just never mind the law, gimme what I want.

23 louise barron November 16, 2016 at 2:32 PM

Here’s another fight on our hands in our little quiet town. Is anyone else tired.

24 ted November 16, 2016 at 4:16 PM

I’m sure the Zoning Board will strike again–Just like they did at St.Marks for the Solar jungle over there.

25 Make a difference November 16, 2016 at 5:34 PM

I have heard through the grapevine that Lamar Outdoor has solicited the school aged groups like the SOS, the Soccer and Baseball Youth Groups promising that in exchange for their support at this hearing that they will advertise for those different groups. I don’t know about you but I consider that bribery and completely unethical. This whole thing smells rotten. Our current bylaw states NO BILLBOARDS. Period. End of story. This company wants to use a USE VARIANCE to avoid the bylaw. If they want to change the bylaw they should change the bylaw through Town Meeting and not seek a use USE VARIANCE to effectively change zoning. I do worry about this one since several of our existing ZBA members really are not mentally capable of understanding complex things like zoning, LAWS and what is in the best interest of Town.

26 SouthboroDave November 17, 2016 at 9:05 AM

I’m looking forward to the results of last nights ZBA meeting. Did they grant the billboard use variance!?

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