Town Meeting rejects digital signage article


Town Meeting rejects digital signage article
Town Meeting voters rejected Article 42 on Tuesday. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

SHREWSBURY – Shrewsbury residents rejected digital signage.

On May 21, the second day of Shrewsbury’s Annual Town Meeting, the town’s body of elected representatives rejected Article 42, which would have amended the town bylaws regarding digital signage, or “digital message boards,” in Shrewsbury.

Town Meeting required a standing vote to decide Article 42’s fate. Ultimately, 113 residents voted for the article, while 58 rejected it. The article needed a supermajority (two-thirds) to support the project in order for it to pass.

Throughout Town Meeting, residents argued that more digital signage would impact the “quaint nature” of the town, with some fearing that Shrewsbury streets could become too bright. Other voters wanted to see more specific restrictions on the signage.

Under the current bylaws, digital signage is allowed only in the Town Center district. The updated language in Article 42 allowed for nearly town-wide digital signage, with certain exemptions for certain districts, such as single-family residential communities.

“The proposed language includes specific design standards… It’s important to know that this would not be permitted in single-family residential areas. It would primarily be looking at commercial areas and multifamily residential areas,” Director of Planning and Economic Development Christopher McGoldrick said on May 10.

Article 42 would have allowed the Planning Board to approve the digital signage and the frequency the signage could change (hourly and daily). Only one digital sign would have been allowed per property provided that designs did not change more than hourly and did not include flashing or moving lights.

Town Meeting members feared traffic might have been impacted by the signs. Article 42 said that the signs could not be bright enough that they “impair the vision or endanger the safety and welfare of any pedestrian.” The digital signs could not have included any “movement, animation, audio, video, pyrotechnics, or other special effects.”

Article 42 allowed message boards to advertise only services or goods available on the property, and signs must not have been illuminated 30 minutes before opening or after closing. The article also covered digital displays visible through business windows, and contained special provisions for municipally-owned buildings.

The bylaw change had been asked for by local businesses, McGoldrick said in the months leading up to the meeting. In other meetings, Planning Board members – who unanimously recommended the changes – said that digital signage was a way to “modernize” the town.

“I think digital signage is the way of the future. You drive around and you see what’s on other roads – but it’s got to be regulated. Otherwise, it’s a free-for-all,” Planning Board member Stephan Rodolakis said at a May 2 meeting.

The Community Advocate is providing real-time updates about Shrewsbury’s annual Town Meeting at Oak Middle School. For more information, and to see updates, follow us on Facebook or visit


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