Port Norfolk civic defers vote on digital billboard plan

The Port Norfolk Civic Association voted Tuesday to defer a vote on the conversion of an existing billboard overlooking Gallivan Boulevard and Interstate 93 to a slightly smaller digital billboard, citing respect for a broader coalition of neighborhood groups against billboards.

Derek Mourad, owner of the Neponset Car Wash, pitched the civic association about a change to the billboard. The currently 20 x 50 foot static board would be replaced with a 14 x 48 foot digital billboard.

“We’re not going to please everyone, but we’re going to try,” Mourad said. He would be giving $10,000 a year to the Port Norfolk Civic Association if they supported the board, he said, to be used at the group’s discretion. Four billboard faces elsewhere in Dorchester would be removed as part of an agreement with Clear Channel, who handles billboards in the city.

About a year ago, civic groups including the Port Norfolk association submitted a letter asking for a moratorium on billboards until the city introduces a policy regarding regulating new and converted boards.

Staff from the offices of State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and Dorchester State Rep. Dan Hunt asked for the civic group to defer a vote, as Hunt is actively advocating on behalf of the neighborhood coalition's bargaining power.

Port Norfolk Civic Association president John Lyons expressed concern about the bright billboard overlooking the adjacent park, and referenced the association’s rejection of a more lucrative offer for a billboard in 2009.

Mourad said before the vote that he would not be deferring a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on the billboard scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 24. A deferred vote from the civic association means they will have no official position at the ZBA hearing.

After more than an hour of discussion, members voted nine to six to defer the vote.

The group did vote in conditional approval on the lease of Ralph Bruno’s property at 12 Ericsson Street — part of the former Putnam and Company Nail Works site — to Brian Anderson of Commonwealth Real Estate Management for use as offices and storage.

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