EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — A controversial LED billboard between Margate and Northfield will be turned back on — with some conditions.
But the resident leading the public opposition said he will continue to fight the project.
The township's Planning Board on Monday approved for the second time the illuminating billboard, which has drawn criticism from residents and officials in Northfield, Margate and other parts of the region. This was the fourth meeting on the application regarding the 600 square-foot billboard on the Margate Bridge Causeway.
The board initially approved the billboard in 2011, but Northfield residents Richard and Deborah Levitt filed a lawsuit against the Moorestown, Burlington County-based developer Jersey Outdoor Media.
The billboard was turned off in March 2012 — a month after it went up — when the state Department of Environmental Protection cited the firm for unauthorized wetlands development. The firm went before the board again after developing plans to move the structure's pole 24 feet west and cantilevering it over the wetlands.
Many residents spoke against the billboard during the meetings claiming it was too bright and affected their ability to sleep and general quality of life in their homes.
The Levitts' attorney, Stephen Hankin, told the board they had an opportunity to make a difference.
His arguments against the billboard before the board included that it impacted the area's scenic environment, was distracting to motorists, was opposed by officials and residents in Northfield and Margate,
"You know in your heart this isn't right. This can't possibly be right. Not one person has come out in support of this thing," he said. "You have to listen to the people in this town and surrounding municipalities who have to live with this every day."
But Jersey Outdoor Media's attorney Nicholas F. Talvacchia reiterated to the board that the billboard was a permitted use. And when the board voted — though they expressed concern for the local residents — they agreed with a unanimous decision.
When asked from the board to voluntarily make accommodations for the residents, Outdoor Media said it would adopt industry standards for the lights, lower the height from 60 feet to 50 feet, eliminate white board lighting from dusk to 1 a.m., turn the billboard off between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., and post public safety alerts on the billboard. The white board lights are four times brighter than the dullest other lights.
"I don't think neighbors will enjoy this, but (it) will be better than what they had," said Board Chair James Garth.
Talvacchia, speaking after the meeting on behalf of his clients, said the billboard will benefit businesses who want to advertise on the sign.
"Our position has always been it's permitted," he said.
He could not give a timetable as to when the billboard would be operational again.
But Richard Levitt and his attorney said even with the changes the billboard would still be a problem for the residents. Hankin said they would appeal the board's decision.
"It doesn't belong there," Hankin said. "If they think (the changes) will have us cease and desist our appeal they are highly mistaken."
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