Tuesday July 17, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- An outdoor advertising agency wants to create a rooftop billboard double what Pittsfield zoning rules allow, a plan the city rejected two months ago claiming it would adversely affect the downtown skyline.

Lamar of the Berkshires, a division of Lamar Advertising in Albany, N.Y., is again seeking approval to wrap a vinyl skin around the two billboards facing Fenn Street above the Highland Restaurant at 100 Fenn St.

The pair of signs nearly 23-feet wide by 10.5 feet high would become a single 50-footer -- twice the city's width limit for billboards.

Tonight at 7 at City Hall, the Community Development Board will review the proposal it rejected on May 15. In May, board members felt the billboard would be too big and have a detrimental visual impact on the area.

If the board reverses its position, the proposed 50-foot advertisement would also require a variance from the Pittsfield Zoning Board of Appeals and approval of the City Council.

"Any time an applicant requests a variance, it raises concerns," said Deanna L. Ruffer, the city's community development director. "Also, the board's policy in recent years has been toward smaller signage rather than larger signage."

Lamar office manager Marcia Beverly said on Monday that the company simply wants the option to create the larger billboard. If there are no takers, the company would continue to sell separate advertising on the two billboards. Beverly noted the billboards predate city zoning rules because they were erected more than 50 years ago, along with two others atop the restaurant.

Unlike the previous proposal, Lamar is willing to dismantle the two similar size billboards built in the 1950s that face Federal Street. If removed, Lamar would be left with five rooftop billboards in Pittsfield; the other three are on Tyler and Elm streets, company officials said.

While the billboard removal wasn't part of Lamar's original plan, Beverly stopped short of calling it a compromise to appease the Community Development Board.

"We always look at billboards that are not producing revenue," she said.

Lamar of the Berkshires owns 135 billboards throughout Pittsfield and is part of the Lamar chain that operates 155,000 outdoor advertising signs across the U.S., Puerto Rico and parts of Canada, according to the company website.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.