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It all came together last week when a giant replica of a honey-dipped doughnut, nearly the length of the dinosaur's torso and complete with glowing lights, was hung from its tiny arms.
But days later on social media, Kane's posted a photo of the sign lit up with the caption: "Hope you got to see our dinosaur with the donut lit up. The donut was temporary and coming down soon."
The shop owners thought developers had already applied for the fixture when they received initial approvals from the town, Paul Delios, co-owner of Kane's Donuts, told The Item Friday. The doughnut was taken down by noon.
The illuminated doughnut was a temporary promotional advertisement, not a sign, said Essex Landing Developer Michael Barsamian.
Essex Landing is a $150 million commercial and residential development. The Saugus icons joined forces last month when Kane's opened its third location on the property.
"We needed a permit and we didn't realize we didn't have one," said Barsamian. "The town came down on us."
Debra Panetta, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said she was not aware of the issue.
"I have other, much more important things to worry about than a dinosaur with a doughnut on it," said Panetta.
Barsamian said he plans to file an application for proper permitting on Monday.
But Town Counsel John Vasapolli said it might not be so simple.
"It would be considered a sign and I'm not sure if it's on the same lot (as Kane's)," said Vasapolli.
Because the dinosaur doesn't share a space with the doughnut shop within the development, it would be considered a free-standing sign and would require a variance from the town's Board of Appeals, he said.
"It would be like a billboard, but those are prohibited," said Vasapolli.
The town's zoning bylaws include nine pages of regulation for advertising signs and billboards. There are general size, placement, and light regulations listed in the document.
One section specifies that "no illumination shall be permitted that casts glare onto any portion of any street that would, in the opinion of the Chief of Police, constitute a driving hazard."
"This bylaw was adopted as a result of all the large signs on Route 1, like the cactus," said Town Counsel John Vasapolli. "Town Meeting members 25 to 30 years ago felt it was getting to be too much like Las Vegas."