EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The Margate Causeway billboard will remain turned off for now, following a hearing Monday in front of Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten.
Batten ruled against a request by Premier Outdoor Media to undo a May 2012 injunction and plug the electronic billboard back in, following last month’s decision by the Egg Harbor Township Planning Board that the company could erect a billboard on the tract.
The issue will next be in court May 23, when Batten hears an appeal of last month’s Planning Board decision.
At issue is a proposal by Premier Outdoor Media to erect an LED billboard on the Margate Causeway. The billboard got township approval in 2011, but the 600-square-foot billboard was shut down June 1 after Northfield residents complained about its nighttime brilliance, and state Department of Environmental Protection officials ruled the billboard had been improperly constructed in wetlands.
The company proposed to move the billboard to another part of the same property, and after several lengthy hearings, the township’s Planning Board signed off on the project last month.
Neighbors have since appealed the approval, said their attorney, Steve Hankin.
Hankin argued that the township erred in granting its approval. As he said before township planners, Hankin said he told Batten that the billboard was not permitted in the marine commercial zone, and township zoning laws do not permit two principal uses to exist on one tract.
“The Planning Board was without jurisdiction to grant the site plan and it should be reversed,” Hankin said. He said he felt confident the billboard would remain off.
Chet Atkins, the president of Premier Outdoor Media, said the company expects to proceed with the permitting for the billboard once the Planning Board formally ratifies its decision next week.
Atkins said he thought Batten was supportive of his company’s eventual ability to build its proposed billboard at the site. “We were upset, obviously,” by Batten’s decision, Atkins said. “We wanted it lifted last night.”
The company’s attorney, Peter J. Boyer, did not return a call Tuesday afternoon.
In the meantime, Atkins said the company would begin scouting out other sites on Tilton Road in Northfield for suitable spots to erect similar electronic bulletin boards, while pushing forward with the Margate Causeway proposal.
“We don’t believe in bullies telling people what to do with their own properties,” Atkins said.
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