Controversial Margate Causeway billboard called too bright, possibly dangerous - pressofAtlanticCity.com: Egg Harbor Township

Controversial Margate Causeway billboard called too bright, possibly dangerous - pressofAtlanticCity.com: Egg Harbor Township

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Controversial Margate Causeway billboard called too bright, possibly dangerous

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Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 10:59 pm | Updated: 8:31 am, Wed Jan 23, 2013.

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Debate over an electronic billboard on the Margate Causeway continued Tuesday with a lighting expert describing the structure as “overlit” and a driver-psychology expert suggesting it could be hazardous to motorists.

With more testimony expected, the township Planning Board put off a vote until at least Feb. 25, when it will dedicate an entire meeting to the plan.

At issue is a 60-foot LED billboard on the road to Margate.

The board initially approved the development in 2011, but the billboard has since been the subject of litigation between the developers and Richard Levitt, of Northfield, who chairs that city’s Planning Board and who has objected to the brightness of the billboard.

After Jersey Outdoor Media built the billboard, the state Department of Environmental Protection cited the Moorestown-based company for unauthorized development in the wetlands.

The company since refiled its plans, moving the pole 24 feet west of the current location and cantilevering the sign over the wetlands.

Levitt has said he planned to continue his litigation should the Planning Board approve the project, in part because of the impact it has had on nearby properties and his belief the plan was rushed through the development process.

Tuesday’s testimony included lighting expert Alex Zepponi, who said he thought the sign was brighter than necessary. He testified that one night last spring he took readings from the property line of the billboard and at the Levitt’s house 3,000 feet away.

“My personal observation was it was overlit,” said Zepponi, owner of the engineering firm Entec of North Haledon, Passaic County. “I went to the Levitts’ house. It was overlit.”

In Levitt’s bedroom, Zepponi said, the billboard cast light against the wall opposite the window.

The township did not seem to have any ordinance directly dealing with this new class of illuminated billboards that have sprung up in recent years. Zepponi said the township seemed to indicate its intent when it required parking lots to not be lit at their property lines in excess of 0.1 foot-candles, a measure of light.

He said some readings were in excess of 3 foot-candles at the billboard property line, and 0.1 foot-candles at the Levitt house more than a half mile away.

Zepponi said he worked for billboard companies before and the brightness of electronic billboard are adjustable. Typically, he said, “If a neighbor complains about the light, you look at it and say, ‘Hey, we can turn it down.’”

Gerson Alexander, an expert in driver psychology, testified the proposed location for the electronic billboard seemed to be an unsafe place. There is a curve and a slight rise for a bridge, and he said, “It’s dangerous to put that sign at that location.”

But on cross examination, he said he hadn’t studied crash data. Attorney Nick Talvacchia, who represented the billboard company Jersey Outdoor Media, said the state Department of Transportation had to consider safety when it signed off on the billboard.

A handful of nearby residents also complained about the billboard, saying it ruined the marsh view.

Claire Moyer, 71, of Northfield, said the “obscenity” of the billboard shocked her the first time she saw it. Michael Malin, 65, of Egg Harbor Township, said the billboard was out of place on a roadway that he said was about “boats and birds and turtles.”

James Robertson, 51, of Northfield, described the billboard in terms of Hollywood villainy, reaching to the film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and said: “That billboard is Pottersville personified.”

Contact Derek Harper:

609-272-7046

DHarper@pressofac.com

Follow Derek Harper on Twitter @dnharper

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