Foxboro voters approve scaled back electronic billboard bylaw for I-95 | Local News
Eight months after refusing to allow electronic billboards along the I-95 corridor in Foxboro, voters at Monday’s special assembly passed a reduced measure that officials said would limit installations to just a handful — and possibly only one – would limit potential sites.
The impetus for the revised signage changes came from a citizens’ petition signed by 150 registered voters, according to city moderator Frank Spillane, who temporarily laid down his gavel on Monday to represent the petitioner.
The changes, approved by a majority of 116 to 71, will pave the way for a double-sided electronic billboard on the corner of Spring Brook and East Belcher streets overlooking I-95 — and offering the city $50,000 each Bring in annual revenue next 20 years.
These cash payments, known as “mitigation funds,” are required under a 2019 amendment to the law that allowed electronic billboards along Route 1. Prior to this point, conventional billboards were only allowed in the Route 1 zone with a special permit, with digital billboards being banned entirely.
Electronic — or digital — billboards that resemble giant television screens typically bring owners more advertising revenue than static versions.
At peak times, advertising messages can be changed quickly and higher tariffs can be charged.
Spillane said the revised proposal, which was unanimously approved by advisory committee members, effectively eliminates the use of the city’s public works garage on Elm Street as a potential installation site — a controversial feature that led to its defeat at last year’s Foxboro annual convention May contributed.
In addition, Spillane said the new version would increase the distance between each proposed billboard and the nearest apartment from 350 to 1,000 feet and allow the city to post up to six hours of free community news each month.
But not everyone present was convinced.
Prospect Street’s Mark Powers suggested that an annual payment of $50,000 compared to the city’s $80 million budget was a drop in the bucket — especially for an eyesore that could be seen from long distances .
Meanwhile, Chestnut Street’s Timothy Devlin predicted an “avalanche” of sports betting ads after in-person sports betting began this week at the state’s three casinos – including Plainridge Park in nearby Plainville.
Earlier, Advisory Committee Chairman Daniel Peterson confirmed that First Amendment provisions prohibited the city from exercising control over advertising content.
But he said American outdoor advertising, which is expected to install the billboard on Belcher Road, is fundamentally frowning on adult tobacco or content messages.
In another action, voters approved, with little discussion, a series of funding articles that committed $1,064,069 to a trust fund set up to pay for health care and other post-employment benefits for the city’s retirees and approved $800,000 USD for architectural and engineering plans for a proposed renovation and improvement at the Elm Street public building complex and approved four equity fund applications totaling nearly $413,000.
Responding to a question from Cocasset Street’s Joseph Frisoni, Christopher Gallagher, director of public works, said preliminary estimates for the freeway facility overhaul were between $10 million and $12 million. He added that a formal application for construction financing could be made as early as next fall.
The four capital requirements included:
$88,000 to replace defective garage doors at the Chestnut Street Public Safety Building; $75,000 for a new Ford Expedition for use as a fire engine; $50,000 to replace obsolete Tasers issued to Foxboro police officers and $200,000 to supplement existing funds for the demolition of the former state hospital laundry building adjacent to the Payson Road field complex.
Voters also agreed to petition the state Legislature to replace the gender-neutral term “Select Board” for the traditional “Board of Selectmen” in Foxboro’s general and zoning ordinances and all official correspondence.
Although the change requires both state legislature approval and the governor’s signature, it would not change the authority or role of the board — which serves as the city government’s executive branch.
Even more poignant, voters took a sentimental measure to rename the youth baseball diamond closest to Igo Elementary School to Bayuk Field in memory of Stewart Bayuk, a longtime board member and supporter of Foxboro Youth Baseball , who died in December 2019.
Immediately after calling Monday night’s session to order, Spillane paused to pay tribute to retired city manager William Keegan, who thanked voters for the opportunity to end his career at Foxboro.
“This has been a 40-year journey as an official,” said Keegan, who vowed to spend more time with family and on the golf course. “It was definitely a great experience.”