Off X-way billboard proposal stirs fuss

The decision of the McCormack Civic Association’s board of directors to share revenue generated by a proposed billboard with other local civic organizations drew heat from association members Tuesday.

The proposal, which advertising company IconGroupe is seeking the organization’s support for, calls for a new sign to be built between the Sleepy’s mattress store and Bickford’s Restaurant by the shopping center in South Bay. The agreement proposed by McCormack would have the three participating civic organizations – McCormack, Andrew Square Civic Association and the Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association - each receiving $500 a month from IconGroupe.

A final vote on the proposal will be held at on May 18 at Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta Church.

In the meantime, McCormack Civic executive board members are asking for input on changes to the stipulations in the contract with IconGroupe. Members voiced concern not only over the revenue sharing portion of the plan, but also over some of the details of the billboard itself. Members requested that language detailing the exact dimensions of the sign and what level of control the association has over what is advertised be included in the contract.

Profits from the sign’s revenue would go to the association for use in beautification projects, a trust fund for association legal fees, or other areas.

Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association has already voted to oppose construction of the billboard. Andrew Square Civic voted in favor, making McCormack’s vote next month the de facto “deciding vote,” as one member of the executive board put it.

The Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association’s opposition to the billboard led some McCormack residents to ask why a group that voted against the sign should be entitled to revenue it produces. “If it were to pass, I don’t think that Savin Hill should get a piece of that,” one woman said.

“How we split [the revenue] might very well affect how people vote,” said Gavin Sherman, a McCormack civic association member.
Discussion of the sign was preceded by a presentation by Fredrick Ford, a sales and development manager for IconGroupe.

“It’s in our best interest to be extremely sensitive to the needs of the community,” Ford said as he agreed to work with the association on a list of things that will be prohibited from being advertised. Examples of prohibited subject offered by members included ads for Planned Parenthood, animal fur products, and other controversial topics.

The proposed agreement also calls for a sign advertising the McCormack group to be displayed on the billboard when the advertising space is vacant. Ford agreed to work with the group and IconGroupe’s in-house designers to produce a sign that will be installed on the billboard structure itself and will be visible when no advertiser sign is in place. Ford and the group agreed to stipulate in the contract that the group’s ad would be installed on both sides of the sign.

Executive board member Millie Rooney asked that further discussion be held to determine if the McCormack association should be entitled to an additional payment from IconGroupe each year if the billboard is booked year-round and the group’s advertisement is not shown.

Ford said that IconGroupe could charge upwards of $10,000 to $15,000 a month for an ad on the billboard.

A preliminary and unofficial “straw poll” of the assembled association members voted to reject the billboard proposal as it stands now.

“This is the can of worms that all this stuff is opening up... we won’t have any ground to stand on to oppose any other billboard if we approve this one,” said Sherman.