April 24, 2014 11:35AM
By Dan Brechlin
MERIDEN — The city may have violated the property deed for Nessing Field when it approved an electronic billboard on park property, a local attorney wrote in a letter to the state.
Dennis Ceneviva, who represents DFC of Meriden, wrote to the Department of Transportation stating that the city’s location for an electronic billboard “does not comply with the requirements regarding distances from a public park.” The Nessing Field billboard, which can be seen from Interstate 91, has received local approval and is awaiting state approval. It could bring in close to $1 million in revenue for the city over the next 20 years.
State regulations require any billboard to be at least 100 feet from a public park. The Nessing Field deed requires the property to be used “for the sole purpose of establishing, creating and maintaining a public park in the city of Meriden, for the benefit of the general public.” The 11-acre park, given to the city in 1973, has two softball fields, a parking lot and concession stand. A skeleton for the city-owned billboard stands on the eastern end of the property, past the outfield fencing and abutting I-91.
Ceneviva’s client asked the city to convert a standard billboard just north of Nessing Field to an electronic billboard. DFC of Meriden is suing the city for not approving its application. In denying the request, the city reasoned that the proposed DFC electronic billboard would be too close to the one at Nessing Field. Under state regulations, billboards must be at least 500 feet apart, with the city constructing its billboard 501 feet from DFC’s standard sign. Newly passed city regulations require a 1,500-foot separation between two electronic billboards.
Ceneviva said the city’s billboard should not be allowed under the public park restriction. Attorney John Kennelly, who represents the city, said earlier this week that the city’s billboard was not in violation of the 100-foot public park restriction because the park should end at the softball field’s outfield fence.
“It is more than 100 feet from the outfield line and now has its own industrial zone,” Kennelly said.
The city rezoned the strip of land that the billboard is on as industrial to allow for the structure. The park had been zoned as residential, but had to be changed because billboards cannot be installed in residential areas.
DOT official William Dorn said Monday that the park issue is a “gray area up for interpretation.”
Ceneviva said he was told Friday afternoon that the city’s law department would rule on whether the billboard was constructed on park land.