EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The future of a 600 square foot LED billboard on the Margate Bridge Causeway is in the hands of the township's Planning Board.
The board heard testimony at a meeting Monday at City Hall on Bargaintown Road to move and restart the 60-foot billboard owned by Jersey Outdoor Media of Moorestown, Burlington County, with a video screen for advertisers. The meeting finished before all the testimony was heard, and the application was adjourned to the Jan. 22 meeting.
The board originally approved the plan in September 2011, but the company later found the approved site was wetlands. The company went back to the board with a plan to move the pole, which will hold the billboard, 24 feet.
The billboard operated in March but had to be shut down a month later once the wetlands issue was discovered.
The state Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation in April to Jersey Outdoor Media for unauthorized development in a wetland, but in August issued the company a Coastal Area Facilities Review Act permit after developers revised their site plan.
Jersey Outdoor Media's attorney Nicholas F. Talvacchia, of the Cooper Levenson law firm in Atlantic City, said the proposal was a simple move of an already approved project.
But since the billboard debuted it has drawn objections from residents — most notably Richard and Deborah Levitt, whose Northfield home abuts the bay. They filed a lawsuit in April to remove the billboard.
A judge ruled the billboard had to be shut down due to the DEP's violation order. Talvacchia said if the board approves the new site they expect the billboard to be turned back on.
Stephen Hankin, attorney for the Levitt family, presented evidence during Monday's hearing he said shows the billboard is not compatible with the township's laws such as proximity to residential properties, zoning and being a nuisance to the residents in Northfield across the bay.
"It annoys them and it invades their life and we intend to prove that," he said.
Many Northfield residents at the meeting spoke against the billboard, noting the changing lights are a big issue for many residents who live near the bay.
"I have cream-colored walls," said resident Michael Virga. "When the lights change red, my walls turn red. When the lights turn blue, my walls turn blue."
Residents also said the billboard is a danger for drivers, affects the local skyline, is a potential fire hazard and could lead to more billboards on the road.
Some residents said the lights are also keeping them awake at night — even with drawn curtains.
"When I can't sleep at night I have a problem," said resident Christian Hires.
In response, Talvacchia said after the meeting the state Department of Transportation issued a permit for the billboard.
"They wouldn't do that if it wasn't safe," he said.
Northfield Mayor Vince Mazzeo said the city passed a resolution opposing the sign at a meeting six months ago and the billboard has been a big problem for the residents. He said the township should have notified the residents of this project when it was in the planning stages and many were unaware of it until the billboard was erected.
"They live in that area," Mazzeo said. "They have to look at it and they don't want it."
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