January 28 2020

Town Meeting Passes Resolution Opposing Monument Sign on Town Property

By: Rich Hosford

Burlington Town Meeting voted almost unanimously on Monday night to express opposition to a monument sign on town property that was recently approved by the Board of Selectmen. 


As reported on BNEWS, a “monument sign” for the Shoppes at Simonds Park development at 154-160 Cambridge Street was approved by a 3-2 vote during the January 13 Board of Selectmen meeting. Selectmen Nick Priest and Bob Hogan voted against the licensing deal. 


The sign will be a 14-foot structure off of Cambridge Street with the list of businesses in the commercial park. As part of an agreement made at the meeting the sign will list only the businesses names and not have logos. The company will pay the town a licensing fee of $436,000 over 20 years for the use of town land for the sign. 


The resolution at Town Meeting was put forward by Precinct 5 members Phyllis Neufeld. It reads as follows: 


“Be it resolved, Town Meeting wishes to put on record our opposition to the 14-foot sign that the selectmen approved for the Shoppes at Simonds Park  on Town owned land.”


Planning Board Chair Barbara L’Heureux said that board was also in opposition to the sign and had sent a letter to the selectmen last summer arguing that allowing one sign for a private company on town land could set a bad precedent. 


The big issue appeared to be over the process and whether it was the right decision, not the legality of the decision. Both Selectman Priest and Zoning Bylaw Review Committee Chair Shari Ellis said that the selectmen have the right to approve signs for public rights of way on town owned land. 


“The question is not whether it was legal, because it was vetted, the question is whether you approve of the decision,” Town Moderator William Beyer said. 


What people did object to was, like L’Heureux and the Planning Board, that allowing this one sign could inspire other businesses to try and get their own signs on town property. There was also a feeling that even though the selectmen had the legal right to make the licensing agreement the sign should have gone through the normal process of going before the Zoning Board of Appeals. 


“The critical component is that there is a process in place,” said Town Meeting member Sonia Rollins, who in the past worked on the Route 3A Overlay that covered this area. “So while it may be legal to do, my comment is that while you can license the land I’d like to see the sign go before the ZBA. There will also be other businesses that would want this and some have already asked the ZBA and have been denied which was appropriate.”


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