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The town looks to be on the receiving end of a deferred revenue windfall stemming from a 2019 town meeting vote which paved the way for digital billboards along the Route 1 corridor.

Foxboro looks to be on the receiving end of a deferred revenue windfall stemming from a 2019 town meeting vote which paved the way for digital billboards along the Route 1 corridor.

Town Manager William Keegan last week announced the town had reached tentative agreement with Lamar Advertising regarding a digital billboard at 91 Washington St., sited on an elevated knoll across from Bass Pro Shop.

If formally accepted by selectmen, Keegan said the agreement will provide the town with annual payments of $12,500 over the next 17 years. In addition, he said, the firm has agreed to honor the agreement retroactively to 2019.

This would represent the first such payment following passage of a revised billboard bylaw at the annual May 2019 town meeting which requires a “mitigation agreement” as a condition of approval.

“This is sort of our first shot at this,” Keegan said.

Keegan explained that local officials in late 2019 had met with contacts from Lamar Advertising — which is headquartered in Baton Rouge, La., with regional offices in Boston and Providence — to hammer out a sample agreement.

“We all thought that the number of $12,500 was pretty consistent with what we’d seen in other agreements,” Keegan said.

But with disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as leadership turnover in the building department, the matter fell through the cracks only to be revived this summer.

Prior to passage of the revised bylaw, conventional billboards were allowed only by special permit in the Route 1 zone, with digital billboards prohibited entirely. (A single electronic billboard, located on Route 1 South near the North Street intersection, had been in place since 2009 as part of a Mass Highway pilot program.)

But as early as 2013, several companies were vying for zoning board clearance to install electronic billboards along Route 1.

Electronic (or digital) billboards, which resemble huge TV screens, typically draw more advertising revenue for their owners than conventional ones. Advertising messages can be changed quickly and higher rates can be charged during peak traffic hours.

Because the amended bylaw requires that digital billboards be at least 1,000 apart (or 500 feet from a conventional billboard), no more than six could be permitted in Foxboro — each of which, presumably, would be responsible for a similar impact fee.

Selectmen Chairwoman Leah Gibson noted the proposed agreement does not include an escalator clause spelling out future fee increases — an item Keegan pledged to explore with Lamar Advertising — and also said the 17-year term was curious.

“I have no real comp to base this on, it’s just my gut reaction,” she observed.

In addition, Gibson reminded her colleagues the 2019 bylaw revision provides for six hours per month of free advertising space for community messaging on digital billboards which had been utilized last fall to publicize the “Shop Local” program.

She predicted that access to billboard advertising could prove a valuable resource as part of a broader strategy to effectively communicate with citizens.

“We have this free advertising time and we worked with the agency,” Gibson said of last year’s seasonal promotion. “They were great to work with and they whipped it right up on the billboard.”

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