The Community Development Board approved the petition on Tuesday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Development Board is petitioning the City Council to strengthen billboard regulations.
The board voted Tuesday to ask the council to take over the permitting authority, make proposals be by special permit, and implement specific size and setback requirements.
"We're looking at distance, size and how they relate to the traffic situation," said Chairwoman Sheila Irving.
The move comes in the wake of a proposed electronic billboard that is being fought by residents fearful of it causing more pedestrian and vehicle accidents.
Currently billboards are allowed through a site plan review process. That process allows the City Council and the Community Development Board to set conditions related to specific criteria. It does not allow the board to use as much discretion as the special permit process.
"There has been concerns and question about what the board's authority is in permitting billboards," City Planner C.J. Hoss said.
The Community Development Board now wants to give the City Council more options about conditions and denial reasons for a proposed project as well as give it the ultimate authority. The petition would clear up which board truly makes the final decision as well as give that board — the City Council in this case — additional authority.
The board says the signs should be no larger than 25-by-12 feet and be set back 500 feet from an intersection or crosswalk. The signs must also conform with the zoning setbacks required in the area.
The change will only affect new proposals and those existing billboards proposed for significant changes. It will also cover off-premises signs.
The petition comes on the heels of the board tabling a proposal for an electronic billboard at the East and Elm intersection. Residents and Ward 3 City Councilor Nicholas Caccamo opposed the sign, citing foot traffic from the nearby school and a busy roadway.
Coincidentally, the location for that proposed sign was adjacent to the site of a crash Tuesday afternoon when a tractor-trailer hit a utility pole on East Street.
The electronic billboard triggered the look at the laws regulating all billboards in the city.
"Right now we are looking at the general parameters of billboards in urban areas," Irving said.
Member David Hathaway said this isn't the first time billboards had become a debate among the board. He said fairly recently a company looking to expand a rooftop billboard was denied. The board members disagreed as to the reasons why it was denied — with some saying it was rejected because of the size instead of any other reason.
The petition will now go to the City Council for further vetting and any changes would likely have to go through a public hearing process.