In close votes, McCormack civic group rejects billboard plans

The John W. McCormack Civic Association rejected two proposals to build billboards on sites visible from the Southeast Expressway Tuesday evening at the group’s monthly meeting.

Members voted 15 to 13 in opposition to a proposal from the advertising company IconGroupe to build a lighted billboard between the Bickford’s restaurant and Sleepy’s mattress store near the South Bay shopping center. The arrangement with IconGroupe would have brought the McCormack organization and two adjacent civic associations $1,500 in monthly revenue generated by the sign.

“This goes to the rock principles of this association,” said association member Gavin Sherman. “To be bought off for chump change, $750 a month or whatever it’s going to be, is just totally and absolutely wrong and this is where we put an end to it,” Sherman said.

The funds would have been split between McCormack, Andrew Square Civic Association and the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association, with McCormack receiving $750 monthly to use however members saw fit. Proposals for neighborhood beautification projects, the establishment of a legal defense fund and other ideas for using the money were floated before the group voted to oppose the construction of the sign.

A heated exchange between Sherman and neighbor Bill Trabucco set the tone for the contentious vote.

“There’s so much blight in this neighborhood that has to be dealt with that is not related to the billboards,” said Trabucco, who supported using the revenue from the sign to fund beautification projects. Trabucco said that he hoped members would think about the financial future of the group before making a decision and warned that IconGroupe could still use legal routes to circumvent the neighborhood and build the sign. If the association voted to reject the proposal, Trabucco said, the group would not be entitled to any revenue from the billboard.

“People need to think before they vote on this. This is crucial to the future of the McCormack Association and what it can do to further its goals and meet its objectives,” Trabucco, a former City Council At-Large candidate, said.

Calling billboards “disgusting,” Sherman argued that if every deserving organization erected a sign in order to generate money, the area would be covered in advertisements.

“This association has done enormous amounts of great work,” without the need for a lot of fund raising in the past, Sherman said.
Group members also voted by a margin of 15 to 13 to oppose the construction of a billboard on top of the Greater Boston Food Pantry building. Measuring 48 feet in width and mounted to a 80-foot pole, the sign would be illuminated and hold a rotating set of three advertisements on both of its sides.

The IconGroupe proposal drew heat from both proponents and detractors at the group’s April meeting for a provision stipulating that the $1,500 in revenue would be split evenly between three interested civic associations, even though the Columbia-Savin Hill group had already voted down the plan. The proposal was revised to split the revenue with only the Andrew Square civic group, leaving Columbia-Savin Hill out of the deal. However, the increased revenue was not enough to sway a majority of McCormack members to vote in favor of the arrangement.

Also on McCormack Civic Association’s agenda was a review of the sale of 1299 Massachusetts Avenue in Everett Square. The building, formerly the location of a produce market, is slated to be partially converted into a church under the ownership of the Living Stream Ministry. The “Church of Boston” as the sale documents call the new house of worship would be located on the second floor, with church-run housing on the third and a retail store on the first. Neighbors expressed concern over where congregants and residents of the new housing units would park.

The McCormack Civic Association’s next meeting is scheduled for June 15 at the Carpenter’s Union Hall.