Billboard proposal in Savin Hill pulled amid stiff resistance from ‘over the bridge’ community

A company pushing to construct a billboard along the southeast expressway dropped its plans on Tuesday night after encountering fierce opposition from a neighborhood group. Another topic of the meeting at the Savin Hill Yacht Club was an electronic sign proposed by Spire, a company based in Savin Hill.

The first proposal —from RSA Media Inc.— to construct a double-sided 60 ft by 20 ft billboard along the highway was ferociously opposed by the Savin Hill Historic District Neighborhood Watch, which consists of residents from the “over the bridge” portion of the neighborhood between Dorchester Ave. and Morrissey Blvd.

The group held a meeting Tuesday night at the Savin Hill Yacht Club to hear a proposal from the company. After hearing from the group of about 25 residents, RSA Media President James Lack announced that the company would not pursue the billboard after all. The sign would have been built on land owned by NStar off of Auckland St.

City Councillor Maureen Feeney said that the billboard proposal would have a “devastating impact” on the neighborhood and the people who have tried for over 25 years to beautify it.

“There’s just so much that we can take,” Feeney said.

After hearing from the group, Lack said that RSA would not pursue the plan.

“We are going to withdraw this proposal and not take it any further,” Lack said.

Lack would not comment on any future plans for billboards in the Dorchester area, but did confirm that the Auckland St. plan was off the table.

“This one’s dead,” Lack said.

RSA’s presentation consisted of an aerial view of the area, including where the billboard would be built. RSA engineer Dan Merrikin showed the crowd photographs of the areas that would be affected by the new billboard and using a crane set to the same height as the proposed display, demonstrated what it would look like in various spots around the neighborhood.

In most of the sites featured by Merrikin, the billboard could not easily be seen unless the location already had a clear line of site to that portion of the expressway. Lack admitted later that the sign would be more visible from the upper floors of homes on Savin Hill and in areas where trees currently obstructing the sign would shed their leaves.

RSA had offered to set up a $10,000 trust for the senior apartment building on Auckland St. and to provide $18,000 a year to the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association. Though RSA had not yet filed an application with the city pertaining to the billboard, Lack said that RSA and the civic association came to an understanding on the sign and were ready to move forward if the community supported it.

A separate proposal discussed at the meeting calls for a new “digital sign” along the side of the Spire Printing building at 65 Bay St. that would serve to advertise the printer’s clients. Representatives from Spire and the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, which owns the Bay St. location, did not attend the meeting.

Though there was no official presentation, the group heard from Dorchester Bay treasurer and board member Don Walsh, who attended the meeting as a Savin Hill resident and explained the plan.

The electronic sign would be illuminated and would be placed on the side of the existing building, with no new construction made, Walsh said.

“It’s a billboard but they don’t want to call it a billboard because everyone gets up in arms,” Walsh said.

The planning committee and the membership of the Columbia-Savin Hill civic association have already approved the Spire sign plan.