Following the election of Matt Lewin, discussion reset and resumed regarding a set of three free-standing signs for Cornerstone Square’s entrances, with the issue continuing to evolve over the impact of the development on the town’s character.
With the records from the board’s previous meeting over the issue folded into the technically new discussion with a new Planning Board, Cornerstone attorney Douglas Deschenes focused on the town’s sign bylaws, indicating that the total square footage in Cornerstone’s sign request was permissible and that comparable requests had been made for other projects in the past.
While town planning staff agreed on Deschenes’ math, there were concerns relating to the intent of the portions of the sign bylaw he discussed, particularly in regards to whether the bylaw was intended for projects like Cornerstone that are unique in terms of Westford’s planning precedents, and that previous limitations on signs related to the project only applied to buildings, not free standing signs.
Safety was also a concern, with Deschenes and other representatives in favor of the proposed signs saying that they were necessary for motorist safety, in that those coming to Cornerstone from 495 or down Route 110 would not be able to see where certain buildings are, creating great congestion from confused drivers.
Opponents also used safety as an issue, noting that the signs would limit visibility of drivers leaving the development, also possibly creating accidents and subsequent congestion.
Eventually, the discussion reached the topic of whether the signs were even necessary for the marketing purposes proposed by Cornerstone developer Robert Walker.
Ellen Harde was on hand, apologizing for an error in a letter she had sent to the board regarding the math relating to square footage. However, she still spoke in opposition to the signs, using a similar situation where she opposed a sign request for the Tiki Lau on Littleton Road in 1971.
“They came asking for a sign that would have had swaying palms, and they said if they didn’t get this, they wouldn’t have been able to stay in business,” said Harde. “They didn’t get that sign, and yet they flourished for 30 years.”
Harde’s opposition also included a provision in the bylaw precluding the use of free standing signs unless all other methods of signage proved ineffective. She stated this would probably not be the case with buildings that could be seen from the road, such as the Panera and Burton’s Grill along Boston Road, thus potentially impacting the proposal offered by Deschenes.
However, with 80 percent of the development now filled with tenants, business owners moving into Cornerstone were also on hand to share stories of how a lack of signage either damaged their business at previous locations or would significantly jeopardize the ability for them to start a new business at Cornerstone.
“As a new venture, we don’t have 15 years down the road. The idea of a directory sign within the village is ludicrous,” said Kerrie Davidson, the owner of a fitness facility going in on the second floor of Building D, currently visible between Eastern Bank and Mobil on the Run near 495. “When people drive up and down the road, people will need to know that there’s something special inside Cornerstone.”
Ultimately no decision was made, with the matter postponed until 7:50 p.m. on June 4, where safety studies from Westford Police safety officer Michael Croteau will also be added to the discussion.
CLARIFICATION: 8:27 a.m., 5/22 - Ellen Harde is the Town Moderator of Westford, but she spoke on her own behalf, not in her role as Town Moderator.