Proposal resubmitted to allow electronic billboards on I-95 in Milford
MILFORD — The public hearing on a proposed regulation change that would allow digital billboards along Interstate 95 has been postponed to the Planning and Zoning Board’s June 2 meeting
Attorney Kevin Curseaden said the hearing was delayed because the notice was not posted to the city website early enough to meet state guidelines for meeting notices.
The link to the files detailing the proposal, to be aired at 7 p.m. June 2, are on the May 5 agenda, which is posted on the city website at www.ci.milford.ct.us/planning-and-zoning-board. The links may not work unless the agenda is downloaded as a PDF.
Curseaden submitted and then resubmitted the application on behalf of his client, Dominic DeMartino, who owns an industrial building at 45 Banner Drive that has a billboard facing the northbound lanes of I-95. The regulation language is identical in both proposals but the second one changes the zoning districts in which the proposal would apply. That change removes two commercial districts from the original proposal because there are no billboards near I-95 in those zones.
At the board’s meeting on Dec. 17, 2019, the vote was 5-4 in favor of adopting revised zoning regulations to allow digital billboards along I-95, but the measure failed because six or more votes are needed to pass a regulation change. John Grant and Scott Marlow, two of the board members who voted against the change, did not run for reelection. Thomas Panzella, who was not reelected to the board, voted in favor. Peggy Kearney, who was the one board member not present for the December vote, remains on the board.
Speaking by phone on May 7, Curseaden said he resubmitted the regulation change because he felt the board had to rush the vote due to the change in board members as a result of the election. He said for this revised proposal, he hopes there are 10 members present to vote.
“We felt that we were very close and felt that we came with a comprehensive package,” he said about the reason for his resubmission of a regulation change that failed to pass.
The public hearing took place during two meetings, Nov. 19 and Dec. 3, 2019. During the Nov. 19 public hearing, 12 residents spoke in person, and two people submitted comments by email, almost all of whom were opposed to the new regulation, citing aesthetic and safety concerns. At the Dec. 3 public hearing, three business people spoke in favor of the proposal, one a partner in a billboard company, another who owns property on which billboards are located, and a third who owns a local business and wanted to advertise on them.
As part of the public hearings, Curseaden had presentations from industry experts, including an engineer for a digital display manufacturing company explaining lighting and sound, a billboard company executive presenting advertising rates, and an engineer reviewing traffic safety statistics about billboard distractions.
Curseaden said he plans to summarize the full presentation from those meetings, rather than having the experts complete their full presentations again. In emails to the board prior to the May 5 meeting, he encouraged new board members to review the videos of those public hearings and to read the supporting documents.
According to the attorney, the early concerns were that the light from the billboards would be too bright, and he said he felt that those questions were “relatively answered and then the safety questions came up.” Curseaden said he believed the safety questions “are not really a zoning issue” because digital billboards are allowed by state and federal agencies.
The proposal would create new sections to the zoning regulations under Section 5.2 Exterior Lighting Regulations, and Section 5.3 Sign Regulations that detail the specifications for electronic digital billboard signs, describe permitted locations, and include limits on how much light they can project. The regulations would be limited to the conversion of existing “commercial advertising signs,” and would not allow an increase in non-conformity related to “height, distance, size and location requirements.” Any sign would require a zoning permit.
The display would have to face the I-95 corridor “at an angle of 90 degrees or less at the point nearest the sign structure” and be “located no more than a distance of 200 feet from the I-95 Corridor.”
In the 2019 proposal, the regulation would have applied to these zoning districts: the Limited Industrial (LI), Corridor Design Development Districts (CDD) 1, 3 and 5, and also the Interchange Commercial District (ICD) and the Industrial District (ID). The new proposal limits the change to the LI, CDD-1 and the ID zoning districts.
The change would affect the following six billboards: There is a double sized billboard in front of the building at 58-60 Research Drive, and a single-sided billboard behind the building, as viewed from the northbound on-ramp from Woodmont Road. Along the highway, a double-sized billboard is adjacent to the building at 84 Research Drive, and a double-sided billboard is next to a building at 116 Research Drive. The Research Drive properties in the ID zone are all owned by D’Amato Investments LLC.
There is a double-sided billboard in the state Department of Transportation right of way between the Metro-North Railroad tracks and the southbound lanes of I-95, near 270 Rowe Ave., located in the LI zone. Finally, on the property of Gloria Commons Condominiums, 590 West Ave. in the CDD-1 zone is a billboard adjacent to the I-95 North lanes, but is visible only from the southbound lanes.