Call to Action: No Electronic Billboards in the Neponset Estuary!

The Neponset Estuary is an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and needs to remain protected.

If there was ever a time for Milton residents to come together to protect the Neponset River Estuary, it is now.

Recently, a representative of the Flatley Company presented a proposal to build an electronic billboard to the Milton Select Board. The electronic billboard would be constructed at 2 Granite Avenue in Milton, alongside the Neponset River Estuary.

The Estuary is a designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern and was designated as an ACEC because of its “highly significant historical and archaeological resource, recreational areas, and scenic and educational values” which are of statewide and regional significance. The area supports a valuable ecosystem and wetlands, significant to flood control, fisheries and wildlife habitat, and the prevention of pollution and storm damage. As such it is subject to significant regulatory protection.

We urge our members, particularly those from Milton, to contact the Select Board and ask that they oppose this proposal.

You may use the talking points here, and personalize them with your own experience of the Estuary.

Additionally, we ask that you remain engaged as this proposal moves forward with any required state and local permits and participate in the relevant hearings.


Summary

The Flatley company has proposed an electronic billboard for 2 Granite Avenue in Milton, within the protected Neponset River Estuary Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). It would be visible to Milton and Boston residents (as well as those recreating in and along the water), visible from homes, and while traveling in the area, including along the scenic Neponset Greenway Trail and from other surrounding parks and recreational areas.

Based on the location within the ACEC, we believe this proposal should be ineligible for an outdoor advertising permit from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Specifically, it would not conform with the relevant regulations (700 CMR 3.00), in part for the following reasons:

  • It would be constructed in an area that is protected as natural and open space;
  • It would not be “in harmony with or suitable for the surrounding area” and would do “significant damage to the visual environment,” particularly given the “scenic beauty” and high value of the environmental characteristics of the area; and
  • It would be located within 300 feet of and within view from public land, scenic and recreational areas reserved for public use.

The Neponset River Estuary ACEC Resource Management Plan (adopted in 1996) calls for the removal of all billboards adjacent to Granite Ave,[i] among other protective activities. This proposal is in direct opposition to this management plan.


Electronic Billboards Cause Additional Problems

  1. They waste energy and contribute to climate change. One electronic billboard uses the same amount of electricity in a 24-hour period as 15 homes.[ii] Milton has prioritized climate change as a critical threat to our communities and has taken proactive steps to adapt to climate change impacts. Supporting the use of unnecessary structures that increase greenhouse gas emissions undermines climate change mitigation efforts and the Town’s investment in climate change adaptation.
  2. They harm wildlife. Electronic billboards disrupt the natural cycles and patterns of wildlife.[iii] Mating behaviors, timing of migration, sleep and predation are determined by the length of nighttime darkness.[iv] For example, the overly bright lights emitted by electronic billboards make it easier for nighttime predators to find their prey, disrupt bird migration,[v] and interfere with nighttime mating behaviors of wetland wildlife.
  3. They contribute to sky glow, a form of light pollution. And it’s getting worse: electronic billboards multiplied in the U.S. from 800 in 2008 to 7800 in 2018.[vi] Additionally, the industry’s brightness standards are three times brighter at nighttime than standard billboards. This benefits no one but the sign owner. In fact, 88% of Europe and 50% of the U.S experience perpetual twilight.[vii]
  4. They contribute to distracted driving. A Swedish study in 2013 found that electronic billboards hold drivers’ gazes longer than other passive signs.[viii] Every day, more than eight people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes reportedly involving a distracted driver. A recent study on the impact of 18 digital billboards along high-speed roadways in Alabama and Florida found crash rates 25% to 28% higher near the signs than at control sites down the road.[ix]
  5. They cause environmental injustice. This particular project would directly impact the Environmental Justice Community in Boston across the river from the proposed site. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure new development reverses the burden imposed on historically disenfranchised communities—and this proposal would simply add to it.

Here’s What You Can Do

Please contact the Milton Select Board and let them know that you are opposed to the electronic billboard proposal.

The Milton Select Board can be reached at (617) 898-4843 or by email at:

Kathleen M. Conlon Chair (2022)
Richard G. Wells, Jr. Member (2023)
Michael F. Zullas Secretary (2024)
Melinda A. Collins Member (2022)
Arthur J. Doyle Vice-Chair (2023)

 

Feel free to use and personalize the following talking points:

Dear Select Board Members,

I am contacting you to register my opposition to the proposal by the Flatley Company to erect an electronic billboard at 2 Granite Ave. in Milton. I urge you to reject this proposal:

  • The proposed location is within the Neponset River Estuary, a designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern. The estuary was designated as an ACEC because of its “highly significant historical and archaeological resource, recreational areas, and scenic and educational values” which are of statewide and regional significance. The area supports a valuable ecosystem and wetlands, significant to flood control, fisheries and wildlife habitat, and the prevention of pollution and storm damage. As such it is subject to significant regulatory protection. In fact, the Neponset River Estuary ACEC Resource Management Plan (adopted in 1996) calls for the removal of all billboards adjacent to Granite Ave, among other protective activities. This proposal is in direct opposition to this management plan.
  • Electronic billboards waste energy and contribute to climate change. One electronic billboard uses the same amount of electricity in a 24-hour period as 15 homes.
  • Electronic billboards harm wildlife. Electronic billboards disrupt the natural cycles and patterns of wildlife. Mating behaviors, the timing of migration, sleep, and predation are determined by the length of nighttime darkness.
  • Electronic billboards contribute to sky glow, a form of light pollution. And it’s getting worse: electronic billboards multiplied in the U.S. from 800 in 2008 to 7800 in 2018. Additionally, the industry’s brightness standards are three times brighter at nighttime than standard billboards.
  • Electronic billboards contribute to distracted driving. A recent study on the impact of 18 digital billboards along high-speed roadways in Alabama and Florida found crash rates 25% to 28% higher near the signs than at control sites down the road.
  • The proposal would be an environmental injustice. This project will directly impact the Environmental Justice Community in Boston across the river from the proposed site.

This billboard will be visible to Milton and Boston residents (as well as those from surrounding communities walking, biking, and boating along the estuary). It will be a visual blight within an area specifically protected in part for its scenic values.

Approval of this proposal would create a slippery slope that makes it more difficult to refuse such proposals in other parts of Milton in the future.

I respectfully urge you, therefore, to oppose the electronic billboard proposal by the Flatley Company.


[i] Mass. Exec. Office of Env. Affairs, Neponset River Estuary Area of Critical Environmental Concern Resource Management Plan, at 92 (March 1996).

[ii] Gregory Young, Illuminating the Issues: Digital Signage and Philadelphia’s Green Future, Public Voice for Public Space, at https://www.scenic.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Digital_Signage_Final_Dec_14_20101.pdf.

[iii] Int’l Dark-Sky Assoc., Light Pollution Effects on Wildlife and Ecosystems, at https://www.darksky.org/light-pollution/wildlife/.

[iv] See Scenic Nevada, Environmental Impacts of Digital Signs and Billboards, at https://www.scenicnevada.org/wp-content/uploads/19-05-13-Environmental-Impacts-Flyer-RV-04-2019-FINAL.pdf

[v] Cheryl Conley, Kill the Lights, Save the Birds, Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter, at https://www.sierraclub.org/texas/houston/blog/2018/10/kill-lights-save-birds-cheryl-conley-twrc-wildlife-center.

[vi] See Scenic Nevada, supra note iv.

[vii] Id.

[viii] Tania Dukic, et al., Effects of electronic billboards on driver distraction, Traffic Injury Prevention (July 8, 2012).

[ix] See Dave Johnson, Another Distraction? Digital Billboards have defenders and critics, Indust. Safety & Hygiene News (June 1, 2017), at https://www.ishn.com/articles/106645-another-distraction-digital-billboards-have-defenders-and-critics.

 

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