A number of residents turned out Monday night adamantly against a billboard proposal at Copeland Circle, in front of the Four Points Sheraton, but councillors did not condemn the project, and rather left the door open for further discussion at upcoming meetings.
Attorney Larry Simeone, appearing as a representative for the proposed owner, Vincent Giachetti, told the Council that the billboard would go up 50 feet and would be double-sided, with the panels being 24’ x 48’ and catching traffic on northbound Rt. 1 and on Copeland Circle.
The billboard would be on the hotel property, just at the bend where Squire Road meets the rotary.
It was indicated that the taxes on the billboard in the first few years will equal around $12,000, though that figure will diminish with time due to depreciation in the value of the installation.
The rubber hit the road on the issue of just where the City is headed, whether or not billboards were appropriate for a city that has spearheaded a large beautification effort recently.
Simeone said that the billboard is in an ideal place, far enough away from residents that it makes sense.
“This particular district is remote,” he said. “We’ve looked at the site from several different residential locations across from the hotel and we are comfortable that we don’t block anyone’s line of sight or hurt their property values or offend any property owners.”
He added that Giachetti is a Revere native who relocated to Lynnfield a few years ago and still owns business interests in Revere. Giachetti owns the Esquire Club on Lee Burbank Highway and is believed to also have an ownership stake in the adjacent Trailer Park and the carwash on American Legion Highway.
Some neighbors that came were in opposition to the billboard project because they would be able to see it from their homes, while others were opposed to the general idea of allowing a new billboard. There was great sentiment that allowing one billboard on Copeland Circle would open the door for several others on the same corridor.
Denise Salemme, a Gore Road resident and a former City Councillor, told the Council that she worked hard to remove billboards when she was on the Council, and that allowing one will give rise to more.
“In my heart of hearts, I do not understand why I’m even here tonight,” she said. “After we made successful efforts to remove these, I can’t understand why we would want to put back what we fought so hard to remove – billboards…I’m a firm believer that one billboard begets another and another and another.”
Salemme’s words carried quite a bit of weight with those on the Council, but neighbors had more to say.
“Aesthetically, where are we going in this city?” asked Stevens Street resident Ron Champoux. “I drove up Rt. 1 and counted five large billboards from Park Street to Copeland Circle. I think we’ve lived that life. We’ve gone down that road. We’re a changed city now.”
Ralph and Jeanette DeRosa of Marshall Street said they would be looking at the billboard from their windows, as they live just across Squire Road.
“The way my house is situated, I will be able to see this out of my side window,” said Jeanette. “I’m hoping and praying each of you will consider the fact that if it was close to your home, you wouldn’t want it either.”
Added Ralph, “Who knows what they’re going to put on there that the City or citizens may not approve of?”
Perhaps the most inflammatory of the bunch was Rob DeMattia, who had rallied neighbors over the past week with a foreboding flyer decrying the project and indicating that it could lead to others.
DeMattia said he had gathered 75 signatures on a quickly done petition, and he said that the negative on quality of life that billboards bring would certainly outweigh the tax benefits.
DeMattia’s comments centered on the fact that he is worried about one billboard leading to another.
“We’re not just talking about this one billboard,” he said. “If you allow a billboard where you hadn’t had them before, it opens the door to many more. Once you open that door, it won’t be easy to close. If you allow this one and then deny the next one, you could end up in court.”
Councillors, for the most part, seemed to be leaning towards approval of the project, but each was clear that they hadn’t made up their minds and they were leaving the door open for more discussion.
Most councillors indicated with certainty that they were taken aback by DeMattia’s flyer.
Ward 6 Councillor Charlie Patch said he had not made a decision, but he certainly was clear about questioning DeMattia’s motives.
“I have not made a decision on this,” he said. “I know Mrs. Salemme’s comments are sincere and come from the heart. I do know Mr. DeMattia has worked hard against this and I don’t know if he’s so genuine. He put out an ad that put fear in the minds of residents. Fear does some funny things.”
Patch went on to link DeMattia to a billboard proposal last fall that never made it to the public forum. It was proposed by a Revere businessman and was to be put on Marble Street by the Stop & Shop, near where DeMattia has an office. The proposal, though, was shot down informally before the businessman filed publicly for a permit.
“Where was he when this issue was around?” asked Patch. “Does he hope that we approve this so that another will be granted? I don’t know, but I question his motives.”
Later, after the meeting, DeMattia fired back at being linked to the previous, informal proposal. He said he had nothing to do with it and opposed all billboards.
“It was so patently absurd that he suggested I was linked with that previous proposal because I am saying not to allow this so that no others will come,” he said. “For Charlie Patch to question my sincerity about my feeling towards billboards is laughable. I am sincere about this and frustrated. I’ll go on record to oppose any billboard placed in any part of the city at any time. Will Charlie Patch do the same?”
Councillor Tony Zambuto said he had not decided either, but indicated that it seemed to be in a location where he would typically vote in favor of such a proposal.
Councillor John Correggio was also leaning towards approval.
Council President Richard Penta said that he did not believe billboards would decrease the value on anyone’s homes.
“If these billboards brought down one home’s assessment, I’d quit Council,” he said. “There is no proof of that.”
He also said that the billboards taken down during Salemme’s tenure were part of a swap, where the billboard company took down several installations in order to get approval for one in another location.
Council sources indicated after the meeting that, before the meeting, the proposal had enough votes lined up. However, after the discussion at the meeting, the source said that he believed some votes had certainly changed, and it would be a much more difficult vote than some had anticipated.
Mayor Dan Rizzo told the Journal that his administration is not taking a stand on the billboard, and preferred to leave the decision to the Council.
The matter was referred to committee and is expected to be taken up at the March 5thmeeting.
As a side note, the City of Chelsea recently dispatched a similar type billboard on Rt. 1 that was not near any residential areas. Their reasoning was that they are making efforts to remove billboards and not to add them, and that billboards detract from quality of life.