March 12, 2014

Edward J. Farley, Director
MassDOT Office of Outdoor Advertising
Ten Park Plaza, Room 6133
Boston, MA 02116-3973

Subject:  Application for Electonic Permit

                  Lamar Central Outdoor. LLC at 0 Center Street, Chicopee

Dear Mr. Farley,

I am submitting comments on Lamar Advertising Company’s application for an electronic billboard at 0 Center Street, Chicopee, MA (Application 2014D015) on behalf of the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC).  CRWC is the principal nonprofit environmental advocate for protection, restoration, and sustainable use of the Connecticut River and its watershed.  The requested action is for a permit to convert an existing billboard to an electronic one.  The sign is located along I-91 facing north, and is visible to southbound traffic on the left as they cross the Connecticut River from West Springfield to Chicopee.  Based on the application materials, it appears that the sign is located approximately 250 feet from the banks of the Connecticut River.

The Connecticut River has a number of special designations.  It became part and parcel of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in 1991, the first watershed-wide refuge of its kind in the country.  The Connecticut River was designated one of just 14 American Heritage Rivers by President Clinton in 1998, due to its historic and cultural significance to the nation.  And in 2012, it was also named the nation’s first (and now only) National Blueway.  The entire Massachusetts portion of the Connecticut River in Massachusetts has been designated a state park, the Connecticut River Greenway State Park (http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-west/connecticut-river-greenway-state-park.html).  The part of the Connecticut River that goes through Franklin and Hampshire counties (upstream of this billboard) has been named a scenic byway (see http://www.bywayswestmass.com/byways/connecticut-river/).  The Connecticut River is a scenic, historic, and natural treasure that is at the heart of our lives in the Valley.

We request that MassDOT deny the application for an electronic permit at this site, and also consider rescinding the permits altogether for any billboards that may be visible from the river.  We feel it would be protective of the scenic and environmental interest of the Connecticut River (700 CMR 3.07(4)) and given that the existing billboard under consideration appears to be located 250 feet from a state park, we aren’t sure how the permit was ever granted for this site under 700 CMR 3.07(6), which says that no permit shall be granted for a sign that is within 300 feet of a public park.

CRWC thinks it would be appropriate for MassDOT to consider, under 700 CMR 3.07 (10), the Connecticut River corridor or viewshed to be a “Sign Free Corridor,” such that no billboards would be visible to paddlers, boaters, and rowers on the river.  We assume that given this billboard’s location, it is visible from the river, especially when leaves are off trees (and people do use the river on any nice day after leaf-off and before leaf-out).

We thank MassDOT for the opportunity to comment on this permit.  I can be reached at adonlon@ctriver.org or 413-772-2020 x. 205.

Sincerely,

Andrea F. Donlon

River Steward

cc:       
Paul Jahnige, MA Department of Conservation and Recreation
Chris Curtis, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
Kristen Sykes, Appalachian Mountain Club