BILLERICA -- Selectmen rejected placing the controversial proposed sign bylaw on the Town Meeting warrant last week, meaning that Town Meeting representatives will not have a chance to vote on it next month.

With large, hand-painted signs becoming part of town elections in the last two years, and some residents getting fed up with the trend, the town had proposed a bylaw that would have enacted a 6-square-foot sign maximum, as well as add a minimum 10-foot sign buffer zone from the road to ensure drivers' safety.

However, at a special meeting on Thursday, selectmen voted against placing the controversial sign bylaw on the warrant.

"I think our history suggests to us that if something fails, then people are less inclined to take another bite of the apple, and we need to be cognizant of that," said Selectman John Piscatelli. "We need to think the article will pass and then take it to Town Meeting.

"We need input from a broader group of people and feel really good about it first," he added.

Selectmen Andrew Deslaurier was the lone vote of support to bring it to Town Meeting, while Piscatelli, Selectmen Chairman Mike Rosa and Selectman George Simolaris opposed placing it on the warrant.

Selectman Dan Burns was communicating remotely from his business trip out of the country, but he had to board a flight before they voted. He was expected to vote with the majority.


"There are sections of the bylaw that are fine, but we need to have more debate and discussion before we approve it," Burns said remotely. "I would like it to be removed from the article and brought back in the fall, when we would have an opportunity for more discussion. We could then craft something that we could all agree to, and we don't have that at this moment."

The political sign bylaw, proposed by Building Commissioner Mark LaLumiere, would have enacted a 6-square-foot sign maximum, and have restricted property owners to four signs per lot.

In addition, the bylaw would have added a minimum 10-foot sign buffer zone from the road to ensure drivers' safety, and it would have placed a time restriction for how long signs can be up before and after an election.

Simolaris and former candidate for selectman Rome Capobianco painted large signs for the April election, and some residents complained to the town, calling the signs "eyesores hurting the town's reputation."

However, unless a sign was on public property or caused a public-safety hazard, the town would not enforce the current 1-square-foot-size restriction bylaw. That's because all political campaign signs in Billerica violated the size restriction.

If the town had enforced the size bylaw during the election, then the town would have removed every political sign, not only the large hand-painted ones, according to Town Manager John Curran. It's a poorly written bylaw, which has been brought to their attention since all the complaints were filed about the large signs, he has said.

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