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A judge has ordered the owners of a controversial LED billboard on the Margate Causeway to halt operation by June 1 while a lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

Staff photo by Anthony Smedile, March 22, 2012

A 50-foot-high billboard being erected off Margate Boulevard in Egg Harbor Township has drawn criticism from a neighbor who says the LED display will disrupt their view of the back bays.

The billboard, approved by township planners in September, will feature one digital sign facing Northfield and two conventional signs facing Margate. Its owner says there’s already a waiting list of advertisers for the signs, which will be completed in a few days.

Richard Levitt, whose Northfield home overlooks the marsh, said he and his neighbors worry the new sign will disrupt their view.

“Most of us enjoy the panorama of the meadows,” he said. “We moved here for tranquility, for nature, for the view, for the peace and this is going to be a major disruption.”

The new sign is significantly taller than existing billboards — most of them 25- to 30-feet tall — that line Margate Boulevard.

“It’s way out of scale for the area,” Levitt said. “It’s not compatible.”

But Township Administrator Peter Miller said billboards, even ones that top out at 50 feet, are a permitted use in the marine zoning district. Indeed, he said, a building twice that height could be constructed at the site under township code.

Miller said public comment had been solicited by the Planning Board last year.

“It went through a public hearing portion and none of those concerns were raised,” he said. “It’s hard six months later to guess what would have been done if they had been.”

Levitt also said he’s concerned about the billboard’s impact on adjacent wetlands, but officials say that factor was considered in their decision.

Planning Board Engineer Bob Watkins said the body granted a waiver exempting the owners from listing all wetlands in the area, but a listing of wetlands directly adjacent to the billboard was provided. The billboard has not disturbed any wetland, he said.

Chet Atkins, president of Jersey Outdoor Media, said his company followed all necessary regulations in siting and constructing the billboard, a process that took nearly two years.

Construction should be complete in a few days, he said. He declined to comment on what content will appear.

The digital signs actually require less maintenance and operate at a lower wattage than the lights that illuminate conventional billboards, he said.

“It’s no more visible than Harrah’s in Atlantic City” from Northfield, he said.

The company has erected similar LED signs on Long Beach Island and in Toms River, Ocean County.

Levitt, who also serves on Northfield’s Planning Board, said he wished the neighboring communities had been included in Egg Harbor Township’s decision to approve the sign.

“It’s not an area that impacts Egg Harbor Township residents,” he said. “I just would have liked if they were more sensitive to their neighbors in Margate and Northfield.”

Contact Wallace McKelvey:


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