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Public Hearing Closed on Cornerstone Signs, Decision Coming

It's expected that the Planning Board will make a decision on the freestanding entranceway signs for the project in what will be their fifth meeting discussing the topic.

It appears that a conclusion is finally coming for the ongoing Cornerstone Square entrance sign saga, but that conclusion couldn’t be reached on Monday night.

The Westford Planning Board opted to close the public hearing on the issue of freestanding directory entranceway signs for the new development between I-495, Boston and Littleton Road, which will leave the board to make a decision upon information they’ve received on Monday along with hearings in , , and .

Cornerstone Square attorney Douglas Deschenes continued to urge approval for the three signs, two of which would be on the northern and southern sides of Littleton Road near Eastern Bank with the other along Boston Road near Exit 32.

In particular, he noted that no other development in town had the amount of “unusual circumstances” required in the town’s bylaws for freestanding signs at multi-tenant buildings, ranging from varying topography to the site’s size and restricted sightlines making it impossible to see certain buildings from other parts of the development.

Planning Board member Matt Lewin cited concerns about the signs fitting into the town’s 2009 and Route 110 Master Plans and was worried about the lack of data presented by Deschenes and developer Robert Walker necessitating the marketing need for directory signs at entranceways, saying that other malls in other parts of the state.

At the second point, Walker shot back, again reiterating that the signs met the criteria under town zoning bylaws.

“I don’t care about the rest of the state, I care about the bylaws,” said Walker. “I think we’ve made the point several times as why we need and why we’re entitled to these signs.”

As minutes dragged on into hours, both sides showed signs of frustration.

For Walker and Deschenes, their attempts at compromise with the board on points such as distance from the road, size and design in what is now projected to be $150,000 signs were contrasted with other freestanding sign requests approved for other projects such as McDonald’s and Boch Honda West.

The two repeatedly asked the board how those requests could be approved while theirs wasn’t.

Meanwhile, concerns from the board were still lingering over the amount of light that would come from the signs, whether or not drivers could read the side signs for smaller tenants, whether the signs were actually directory signs or directional signs, and the fact that the approval would set a precedent for other developments in the future.

An attempt at an apparently non-binding conditional permit in a motion made by Dennis Galvin failed 1-4, with Galvin himself voting against his own motion after further debate, leaving only Kevin Borselli voting yes.

While the board was able to unanimously approve signage requests for Burton’s Grill, located adjacent to Exit 32, decisions on permits for the entranceway signs and Market Basket at Cornerstone were postponed until the board’s next meeting on August 6.

Paul F August 05, 2012 at 02:46 PM
This Cornerstone sign deliberation is on the agenda at the end of tomorrow's Planning Board meeting. Walker's comments mentioned above fail to take into consideration the facts presented at the public hearing. Following the Boch decision the 2011 Westford Town Meeting passed revisions to the Sign Bylaw to help make the bylaw easier for both applicants and the Boards to understand. At the time, the Board of Selectmen stated that it was important for Westford to enforce the terms of the Sign Bylaw -- regardless of past practices. The Boards have long stated that any signs authorized by Special Permit do not create legal precedents that bind future decisions. Town Counsel advised that the town is never at risk if it enforces the terms of the bylaw.
Sam August 05, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I hope that if they vote against Mr. Walker he sues the town. The people on these boards need to be told that our bylaws are to be followed by ALL and not to be ignored by their precious few. This goes for all of them, not just signage. The bylaws are there for a reason. If people are unhappy with them, run for office and or a committee and make change.
Paul F August 05, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Also at tomorrow's Planning Board meeting are sign applications for the following: 1. Kindercare on Carlisle -- large sign in a residential neighborhood. 2. Five Guys at Cornerstone -- requesting several signs totalling 88 square feet where one sign of 60 square feet is permitted. 3. Family Eye Care at Cornerstone -- requesting several signs totalling 130.8 square feet where one sign of 60 square feet is permitted. 4. Market Basket at Cornerstone -- requesting a record-setting 354 square foot sign where only 240 square feet is permitted. If you're interested in the size and number of signs we'll be viewing along 110, tomorrow is a good time to voice your views -- pro or con. The first sign item is scheduled for 7:45 pm. Details and agenda are available on the town site. http://www.westfordma.gov/pages/government/towndepartments/boardsandcommittees/WestfordMA_planning/documents/WestfordMA_PlanningAgendas/
Andrew Sylvia August 05, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Thanks Paul! The local government news and notes column is going to be a regular feature on Monday mornings, and what you just said is a big chunk of it. Tomorrow night will more than likely be a big meeting. P.S. - I am required to be neutral on the issue, but I want to point out that I've heard few people in town government reference Paul as an expert on the issue of signage in town. Whether you agree or disagree with his opinions, Paul is definitely a great resource on this topic.
Paul F August 05, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Thanks Andrew. I'm trying to stay reasonably neutral on this issue. All opinions are encouraged at the Planning Board meeting. Signs aren't my primary personal issue, but I've been helping some neighbors with this as I have experience modifying other sections of the zoning bylaw. The issue for the last two years has been that the Sign Bylaw was previously not clearly articulated or well enforced. It was clarified by Town Meeting vote in 2011. The town is currently rewriting the Sign Bylaw to be better aligned with the Comprehensive Master Plan and Route 110 Master plan. Hopefully the result will be in front of Town Meeting in the spring (2013). In the meantime, the Boards are attempting to interpret the current bylaw in a manner consistent with the Plans -- being fair to all.

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