By SCOTT JACKSON
The developer seeking permission to install a digital billboard along Route 3 in Quincy – a proposal that drew opposition from Quincy and Braintree residents and elected officials – has withdrawn his request to do so.
The John Flatley Company had been seeking approval from the Quincy Zoning Board of Appeals to construct the new digital billboard at 1 Crown Drive, which is located within the Elevation apartment complex at Crown Colony. The board held a public hearing on the proposal on July 13 and was scheduled to take up the matter again Tuesday evening.
Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, however, the applicant asked that the request be withdrawn without prejudice. The ZBA approved the request to withdraw the application in a unanimous vote.
The proposed 35-foot-tall digital billboard would have faced toward Route 3 and Braintree and would replace an existing billboard already on site.
During last month’s public hearing, Douglas Richardson, a vice president with the John Flatley Company, said the height of the billboard, 35 feet, was chosen because it is 18 feet lower than the nearby buildings that comprise the Elevation apartment complex. Richardson presented the ZBA a slideshow he said indicated the billboard would have no visual impacts when viewed from the Common Street neighborhood and other areas in Braintree.
Drivers headed northbound on Route 3, Richardson added, would have a “very limited view” of the sign. He said the billboard would be placed at an angle and its pixels would use shades – which he likened to blinders used on horses – to limit the amount of bleed from the side of the signs.
Residents and elected officials from Braintree, however, said the digital billboard would negatively impact the quality of life in their community.
Braintree Town Councillor Julia Flaherty, whose district includes Common Street and other nearby areas, said the sign would be visible in areas at a higher elevation than Common Street and in the second floors of homes, particularly in winter when there are no leaves on trees.
“It will impact our property values. It will impact our quality of life. No digital billboard belongs that close to a residential neighborhood,” she said at the July public hearing. “I really hope that Braintree neighborhoods are not irrelevant to your consideration.”
Braintree Town Councillor Steven Sciascia, whose district abuts Flaherty’s, noted that a digital billboard next to Route 3 in Weymouth generated complaints from area residents concerned about light pollution after it was installed.
“The issue is not the billboard, it is the fact that it is a digital, 24-hour-a-day lighted billboard that will be seen from a lot of areas in Braintree,” Sciascia said last month. “Those lights radiate. Everyone has seen them. You have heard all the controversy from towns like Weymouth that have signs like this go in and the impact it has on neighbors.”
While the developer had been seeking permission to build the new billboard, a provision in Quincy’s municipal code prohibits the construction of new billboards and also prevents the ZBA from granting a variance for such a sign.
“The construction of new off-premises signs, including billboards, is prohibited throughout the City and the City may not issue permits for their construction or relocation. No use variance shall be granted to vary this provision,” the municipal code states.
At the July public hearing, Edward Fleming, the applicant’s attorney, said a separate section of the code gives the ZBA the ability to grant use variances in all zoning districts throughout the city – a provision he said was not changed when the City Council barred the ZBA from granting variances for billboards.
Quincy City Councillor Anne Mahoney, however, said the intent of city councillors was clear when they barred the ZBA from granting variances for new billboards.
“The city of Quincy made it very clear that we do not want billboards anymore in the city,” she said at the July meeting. “Billboards do not have an economic value for the residents of the city of Quincy. It doesn’t make the area more valuable – it actually depresses the area, and that is a fact if you do the research.”
Members of the zoning board also expressed skepticism over the proposed billboard at the July public hearing.
Michael Covais, the board’s vice chairperson, said he was concerned about the proposed location of the sign along Route 3, calling it a “terrible place for it.”
“Though it is not part of my job, I know, I am concerned about our neighbors too. We should be good neighbors,” Covais added. “The citizens of Quincy aren’t going to get anything out of it and the citizens of Braintree may have some problems.”
Martin Aikens, the board’s chairperson, likewise questioned what value the new billboard would provide to Quincy. Aikens said he did not want to vote on the matter at the July 13 meeting because the board received more than 40 letters about the proposal and wanted time to consider that input prior to casting a vote.
In addition, ZBA member Brian Radell said he wanted to hear from the city solicitor or another city official about whether the board could even grant a variance for the billboard before a vote on the matter.