Residents decry Western Avenue sign “pollution

The Board of Public Works conducted a public hearing last night to hear details of a Westfield Rotary Club sign permit application.
The board took the application under advisement to conduct site inspections of the proposed locations following the hearing attended by a dozen residents, including two City Council members.
Rotary President Mark Boardman said the club’s request is for the BPW’s approval of permits to erect four signs, two cautionary signs and two promotional signs, along four major routes into Westfield. The signs were originally intended to be displayed on either side of the city’s two bridges over the Westfield River, but were removed after the club was notified that a city permit, issued by the BPW, was required under city ordinance laws.
The club applied for a permit and a hearing was conducted at the board’s Feb. 14, 2012 session. The Rotary Club of Westfield requested the Board of Public Works to allow the withdrawal, without prejudice, of that application because of complaints from residents and the Kiwanis Club of Westfield. The signs were removed by the club.
The request to withdraw that original application was made at the end of the hour-long public hearing . BPW members said the club could submit a new request to hang the signs, at some location in the city, because the withdrawal request was approved without prejudice.
Last night’s hearing pertained to the second request for sign permits. The club proposed to erect two cautionary signs urging motorists to “Drive Carefully, Protect Our Children” along Franklin Street by the municipal park and on Montgomery Road by Westfield High School.
The proposed location for the two signs promoting the Westfield Rotary Club was proposed for the Clay Hill section of North Elm Street and for Western Avenue near Stanley Park.
Boardman said the Western Avenue location was proposed because of the club’s sponsorship of the July 4 fireworks display conducted at the park.
All four of the 24-by-36-inch signs bear the Rotary International logo and the Westfield Rotary Club’s email address. The signs would be erected on standard sign poles and displayed six-feet off the ground.
The BPW members questioned the need for additional signs, asking Boardman about the four signs now displayed on Southwick Road (Routes 10 & 202), North Elm Street (Routes 10 & 202), East Main Street (Route 20) and Russell Road (Route 20).
Boardman said those signs are “community billboards” erected by the club in 1998 and available to all of the services clubs and nonprofit organizations in the city.
Resident speaking during the public hearing made comments which generally pertained to the proposed Western Avenue sign.
Barbara Welch of Western Circle said she was opposed to signs anywhere.
“If other organizations, and there are more than 20, put up signs, we’ll be overrun by them,” she said.
Joan Brunelle of Western Circle said many motorists driving on Western Circle are coming to Westfield State University and Stanley Park for events and do not know the city’s streets. Brunelle said that more signs will only be distractions for the out-of-town motorists.
Richard Farrell of Overlook Drive said there is “too much sign pollution” already in the city. “If any sign goes up on Western Avenue, it should be a precautionary sign, not a self-congratulatory sign,” he said.
Ward 4 Councilor Mary O’Connell said that she opposes all signs because of the “sign pollution” across the city. O’Connell said the Stanley Park officials have long discouraged the erection of signs near the park to preserve the scenic views along Western Avenue.
“I’d ask you not to allow (the Western Avenue sign),” she said.
Christine Dow of 266 Western Avenue said the erection of signs has a direct impact on neighborhood residents.
“We don’t want to look out the window at all of these signs,” Dow said. “The city is turning into a circus with all of this signage.”
Boardman requested the board’s approval to withdraw the application for the Western Avenue sign.
The board voted to close the hearing and conduct site inspections before deciding the merits of the Rotary Club’s petition at their May meeting.
Board member Joseph Spagnoli said that “a lot more legwork needs to be done before I’m ready to vote on any sign permit.”

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