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Cornerstone Entrance Sign Discussion Postponed After Lengthy Hearing

Three freestanding internally lit signs along Boston and Littleton Road will be the topic of discussion at the Planning Board's next meeting after nearly two hours couldn't clarify all of the issues related to the topic.

 

The Westford Planning Board has postponed a decision on three internally lit freestanding pole signs at entranceways to Cornerstone Square on Boston Road and Littleton Road last night during their meeting at the Millennium Building.

Nearly two hours were spent in discussion between Cornerstone attorney Douglas Deschenes, the board and several local residents over various topics related to the signs, which Deschenes claimed were not bound to earlier prohibitions on internally lit cabinet style signs for the buildings themselves.

During Deschenes’ testimony, he claimed that the proposals fit well within the town bylaws which allow one freestanding pole sign per multi-tenant building, with Cornerstone possessing six.

Deschenes also made comments that the amount of combined square footage on the signs, 147 square feet for the signs at the Boston Road entrance and the entrance to the sign on the northern side of Littleton Road and 127 square feet for the sign on the entrance on the southern side of Littleton Road.

Concerns arose from the board in terms of square footage in relation to the fact that “directory” signage signs within a larger sign such as this one are limited to two square feet in the bylaws.

However, Deschenes claimed that the signage indicating tenants within the sign were not separate “directory” signs rather parts of the main sign, and that attempts to prohibit content in the sign violated Cornerstone’s constitutional free speech rights.

More concerns arose related to sightline safety for motorists looking at the signs, whether lettering on the signs was large enough to see while driving, how far the signs were from the road, to the style of the signs, which Planning Board member Kate Hollister called “cheesy” and “kind of gaudy.”

Some residents, such as Paul Fosbender of Texas Road, were frustrated with the fact that the sign did not meet the intent of the Route 110 Master Plan approved in 2009.

“Originally signs along the road were really low, this seems like a step backwards,” said Fosbender. “Under the letter of the bylaw, these are fine, but the old bylaw for us the Boston Post Plaza sign, and the town’s stated we wanted to get rid of those in the future.”

Other concerns from the audience arose over potential changes that might need to be made to the sign in the future.

“Your signs have space for 15 tenants, but your plans indicate you eventually want 25,” said Chris Koontz, also of Texas Road. “What happens when 16, 17, 18 and so on, arrive?”

Most residents in attendance, as well as the board and town staff, seemed opposed to the proposal, although the request did have backers, such as Richard Seiger of nearby Kansas Circle.

Seiger sought to buy a fast food franchise for somewhere in the Minot’s Corner area shortly after Wendy’s closed, but he was told by national chains that the area was not conducive to businesses of that type due to signage limitations near the road.

“I can’t tell you the number of times before Burger King closed that people went into the service entrance behind the building,” said Seiger. “In order to bring developers into town, you’ve got to give them the ability to attract tenants.”

The issue will be taken back up at the board’s next meeting on May 7.

Kathleen Spaeth April 24, 2012 at 01:29 PM
The proposed signs aren't just "kind of gaudy", they are gaudy, garish, and overtly tall and large. Can't they scale back their three "directories of signs" and lower their height and pull them back a bit from the road, so that way they aren't so blinding busy and won't be seen by planes flying overhead? How blind do they think that their "potential" customers are? Oh and don't get me started on the fact that they will need three sets of these signs to go with their three egresses out of that Cornerstone Development! Whoever agreed to three egresses out of that Cornerstone Development? Also, Andrew did they mention that each of their Tenants are also going to be asking to put up a sign on their respective businesses and how large are these signs expected to be? Why isn't Panera Breads already asking for a Special Permit to put up a larger sign? These "directory of signs" are garish, showy, loud, and glaring! They have no regard for any decorum of Aesthetics, but only care only about their "constitutional right to freedom of speech"! Yikes, really!! Since when did your "constitutional right to freedom of speech" trump our rights to driving down Route 110, and Boston Road, and not have the expectation of being visually assaulted and distracted by your "directories of signs"? How many accidents will occur due to these signs?
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) April 24, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Hi Kathleen, One thing I should mention is that it was mentioned during the meeting that this would probably fall under "commercial speech," which apparently is not protected under the First Amendment, but that there was a "grey line" on that issue. It seemed the advice provided to the board that it'd be unwise to attempt regulating content of signs in just about any situation. There was a separate discussion for signs on the Panera building.
Rachel Amato April 25, 2012 at 01:23 PM
just as a note, there are fast food chains without big garish signs that do fine in other places. I for one do not feel the need for more fast food chains here. I would like us to work harder on implementing our master plan and please lets make Westford a little more walkable.
Vincent DiRico April 25, 2012 at 03:36 PM
"won't be seen by planes flying overhead" -> do "we" still allow that to happen over Westford? You (and Kate Hollister) act like the signs will cause your eyes to bleed, the area is zoned for business!

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