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Avenue A shop will have to keep sidewalk clear

CORRECTION: Montague Selectman Michael Nelson was referred to by a different first name.

TURNERS FALLS — Rodney Madison’s outdoor display at the corner of Avenue A and Third Street has its fans and its detractors, but will now be no more if the owner complies with an order from the Board of Selectmen.

The Montague Board of Selectmen voted at their regular meeting Monday evening to revoke a license issued Sept. 30 to place a sign or object in the right of way, and gave Madison until midnight Sunday to remove the sidewalk and planter displays, with the potential for fines and criminal action if he does not comply.

The board’s first vote ratified an action already taken by the chairman, Mark Fairbrother, last Thursday.

Fairbrother said he revoked the license when he did in consideration of the Franklin County Pumpkinfest two days later and Madison’s lack of insurance for the display.

“We were looking at upwards of 10,000 people milling around in close order,” Fairbrother said. “It would have been an ideal time for something to happen.”

The license was conditional on Madison’s obtaining personal injury liability insurance. According to the letter, read out by Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio, Madison failed to obtain insurance by the Oct. 10 deadline and failed to tone-down the display as promised to the board at the earlier hearing. The letter ordered the removal of the sidewalk display, which Abbondanzio said Madison had not done by Monday.

Since opening Madison on the Avenue this spring, Madison has advertised with a display of his wares on the sidewalk and planter in front of his shop.

The sidewalk is the property of the town, with the Board of Selectmen occasionally licensing its use by businesses, primarily restaurants interested in seasonal outdoor seating or bars planning one-day events.

The selectmen unanimously approved Fairbrother’s action.

“I really think that we gave him as much leeway as we could,” Selectman Mark Nelson said.

Like the sidewalk, the Avenue A planters are also town property, but regulation of the raised plots has been left to the ad-hoc Streetscape Committee.

Nelson said he believes actions on the planters should not be taken without the input of the Streetscape Committee, but in this case he was frustrated by Madison’s lack of cooperation.

Nelson moved and the board unanimously voted to give Madison until midnight Sunday to remove the sidewalk and planter displays, postponing a decision on enforcement until Monday’s meeting.

Abbondanzio said the town lawyer had advised either the police or the highway superintendent could enforce the order with a $20-per-day fine for noncompliance, or the town could go to the Greenfield District Court for an order to clear the property or to compel Madison to pay for removal by the town.

Monday night, the sidewalk around the shop was largely clear, save for twin planters and a soapbox derby car. Madison was not present and could not be reached for comment following the meeting.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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