Assemblyman Chris Brown and former Assemblyman Vince Polistina have recused themselves from any involvement in Egg Harbor Township’s consideration of a revised site plan for a controversial LED billboard on the Margate Causeway, citing political contributions made by the billboard’s developers.
The politicians, both R-Atlantic, serve the Planning Board: Brown as solicitor and Polistina as planner. They are not voting members.
Polistina’s campaign, Amodeo & Polistina for Assembly, received a $2,600 contribution from Jersey Outdoor Media in September 2010, one year before the board first approved the application for the billboard. Brown said he was recently informed of the contribution, although he did not know the details of the contribution and it does not appear on the state Election Law Enforcement Commission website.
“In order to make sure there was no chance of impropriety, I voluntarily chose to recuse myself,” Brown said.
Polistina said he would also recuse himself. He said that he wasn’t aware of the contribution when the Planning Board first considered the billboard last year.
“It was not brought to my attention at that point by the objector or anybody,” he said.
The Planning Board has rescheduled its hearing to Sept. 10, at which time an attorney for the plantiffs in an ongoing lawsuit against the billboard's presence along the road between Margate and Northfield will present evidence.
The state Department of Environmental Protection, which issued a notice of violation in April against Jersey Outdoor Media for unauthorized development in a wetland, issued the company a Coastal Area Facilities Review Act permit last week after developers revised their site plan.
The new plan would move the billboard's pole about 24 feet west of its current location, with the facade cantilevered over the wetlands.
Nicholas Talvacchia, an attorney for the developers, said he believes the board should only consider the site plan. Any appeal of the DEP’s decision will be handled when it is filed, he said.
“We believe we comply,” he said. “The point is, it’s a permitted use.”
Stephen Hankin, the attorney for Northfield residents Richard and Deborah Levitt, said he’s prepared to argue against the billboard’s placement along the causeway, using both township code and state regulations.
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