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This matter came before the Board of Appeals (the "Board") at the request of Congregation Sha'aray Shalom (the "Applicant") for an administrative review or a "Dover Determination" of a proposed ground sign at 1112 Main Street in Residence District B.

The Board reviewed the request during a duly noticed public meeting on June 29, 2015 in Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street. The Board panel consisted of its regular members W. Tod McGrath, Chairman, and Joseph W. Freeman and associate member Alan Kearney. During the meeting, the Applicant was represented by Grace Strake. At the conclusion of this subsequent meeting, the Board voted unanimously to approve the proposed sign.

Throughout its deliberations, the Board has been mindful of the statements of the Applicant and the comments of the general public, all as made or received at the public meeting.


The Applicant plans to replace its existing ground sign at 1112 Main Street in Residence District B. Section V-B of the Zoning By-Law permits ground signs between 4 SF and 20 SF by special permit in residential districts; however, signs of this size are required to be set back 15' from the front property line. The maximum permissible height of a ground sign in all residential districts is also 6'.

The Board granted a Special Permit A1 and Variance to the Applicant in 1984, permitting the present ground sign to be located 2' from the front property line. The decision included a condition that the sign could not exceed 12 SF in size. Congregation Sha'aray Shalom now seeks approval to install a 7.5' high ground sign with a 20 SF double-sided panel in the same location.

The Applicant, as a religious institution, is considered a protected use pursuant to MGL c. 40A, § 3. For this reason, the Board determined that variance and special permit standards are not appropriate tools to assess the proposed modification. The Hingham Zoning By-Law delegates review of exempt uses, and particularly the structures or land that support these uses, to the Planning Board (Section III-B, 8.). Since the definition of structure specifically exempts signs, the Zoning Board maintains jurisdiction over the review.

The Board discussed during the meeting whether the required setback and maximum height would be unreasonable regulations as applied to this Applicant. Members noted that the right-of-way in this portion of Main Street is significant in terms of width and the sign would in fact be located more than 40' from the paved portion of the road. The proposed size, which is permissible in the district, and height, which is only modestly taller than that permitted, were considered reasonable in this location given the distance to the traveled portion of Main Street. Members also agreed that the sign is consistent with other institutional users in the neighborhood.


After review of the information presented during the meeting, the Board determined that the setback and height limitations specified in Section V-B of the By-Law for ground signs in residential districts, if applied to the subject property, would be an unreasonable regulation of a protected religious use. Upon a motion made by Joseph W. Freeman and seconded by A. Kearney, the Board then voted unanimously to approve the 20 SF sign as presented by the applicant, subject to the following conditions:

1. The Applicant shall locate the proposed sign no closer than 2' from the front property line as approved by the 1984 variance.

For The Board of Appeals,

W. Tod McGrath
August 26, 2015