Cambridge City Council rescinds controversial sign amendments


by Brian P. Nanos, Cambridge Chronicle

The Cambridge City Council voted Monday night to rescind the controversial sign amendments that sparked a heated petition campaign and to ask the city manager to create a special task force that would examine the issue of signs on buildings.

The task force will make recommendations to the Planning Board and the City Council.

The sign amendments, passed by City Council in September, led to a petition campaign spearheaded by InterSystems Corp. CEO Terry Ragon, aimed at reversing the council’s decision.

The so-called “Microsoft Amendment” had emanated from Microsoft’s interest in erecting a corporate sign at One Memorial Drive, the tallest commercial building along the Charles River. The new law applied to illuminated signs on tall, non-residential buildings in Kendall Square and west of Alewife Brook Parkway.

Prior to the passage of the amendment, Cambridge signage regulations allowed building identification signs — the name of a company written in large letters on top of a building — only in special circumstances. Anyone seeking to install such a sign had to apply for a zoning variance and had to meet a hardship test to justify a departure from the zoning laws. The amendment gave the Planning Board authority to approve signs in some parts of town and, in doing so, cleared a path for Microsoft to erect a sign.

The amendment had been challenged by Save Our Skyline, the group funded by Ragon, who has been fighting Microsoft’s attempts to put a sign on the 17-story office building that the two companies share.

In October, Save our Skyline led a petition campaign that, because it collected signatures from more than 12 percent of the cities voters, forced the City Council to reconsider its decision. If the City Council had not voted to rescind the amendment, the matter would have been put to voters, either at a special election or at the November 2011 election.


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