By Dennis Hackett
SOUTHWICK- The Southwick Planning Board met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 28 to discuss a distracting sign on Feeding Hills Road, a petition to make Revere Road a public way, and to approve a special permit.
The meeting opened with Town Planner Alan Slessler’s regular report. During the report he announced that the Town entered into an agreement with Verizon south of Lexington Circle to put up a new cell phone tower after a four year process and said, “We’ve entered into the agreement so we’re one step closer. Now they’ve got to go through and meet all the criteria for the special permit as well as to do a new balloon test.”
The biggest talking point from Slessler’s report was the discussion over the use of an electronic variable messaging sign at Moolicous Farms on Feeding Hills Road. While the owner went through the proper process to replace the sign, the sign itself fails to meet the requirements of the bylaw. Board Chair Michael Doherty identified two issues with the sign and said, “There are issues with how fast the sign changes its wording and variable signs are not allowed in that zone,” he said.
Planning Board member Jessica Thornton expressed her concern over the sign and said, “It is now very clearly not in compliance with our bylaw and has become a public issue as constituents have reached out to several members of the Planning Board. Driving by it myself I found it to be distracting and I read three different messages before I passed it.”
One of the issues brought up by the Board is that they called the sign an electronic variable messaging sign and the building permit said the owner requested a digital sign. Courtney Moren, who works for Agnoli Signs in Springfield, explained that there is no difference between the two types of signs.
“These types of signs are called digital signs, sometimes they are called electronic message signs. To call it a digital sign and have there be some kind of misunderstanding about that, I just don’t understand it,” she said, “Every customer I’ve ever had asked for a digital sign.”
Ultimately the Board elected to send a letter to the building inspector, Art Lawler, to explain his position in permitting the grant when it violates the bylaw regarding sign permits.
The next order of business at the meeting was the Public Comments portion and Robert Baker, a Southwick resident came forward to bring up an issue about solar panels on his property after originally coming before the board in November. The Board decided to hold off on a larger conversation and put it on the agenda for the next meeting.
After public comment the board moved into discussion about the recently purchased lots 22 and 23 on Noble Steed Road after the owner petitioned to remove the space between the two lots to build a house. The Board quickly approved the request with little discussion.
The next order of business at the Tuesday meeting was a request to approve Revere Road as a public way so the town, as a result of a petition from residents that was sent before the select board and finally the Planning Board. The Board decided that they needed more information before accepting the approval Doherty said, “I’m curious what police and fire or any other department has to say about it. I think we should send it out to them, take in their comments and then make a recommendation from there.”
The final order of business at the meeting was to review a special permit for 141 Congamond Road, previously Crabby Joe’s restaurant. Doherty made his own revisions to the draft of the permit and handed them out to each of the members of the Planning Board before reviewing the permit. The Board quickly read the permit and unanimously approved a motion to accept it.
The Southwick Planning Board will next meet on Feb. 11.