It was built, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, without the required Coastal Area Facilities Review Act permit and without the required wetlands permit.

It was built, according to a Superior Court judge, without the necessary variances from the Egg Harbor Township Zoning Board.

And now, Judge Julio J. Mendez, ruling in a lawsuit filed by Northfield resident Richard Levitt, has ordered that the mammoth, 50-foot-tall electronic billboard on the Margate Causeway be demolished.

Chet Atkins, president of Jersey Outdoor Media, which owns the sign on property leased from Hackney's Boat Yard Inc., says the legal battle is not over.

But the most important question, if you ask us, is this: How did the Egg Harbor Township Planning Board ever approve this sign in the first place?

A 50-foot electronic billboard, towering over pristine salt marshes and sullying the view for miles around, was certainly no routine planning application. The site obviously raised wetlands issues. The sign was obviously a one-of-a-kind project unlike anything else on the Margate Causeway.

Where was the Planning Board's solicitor? Where was the board's engineer?

In some towns, putting a new front porch on your house can require half a dozen variances and subject you to grilling about exactly what you plan to do on this porch.

But this billboard breezes right through the Egg Harbor Township Planning Board? Everyone involved had to know the sign would be controversial. This whole thing has stunk worse than low tide from the beginning.

The DEP let Jersey Outdoor Media apply for the required permits after the fact when the sign was already up. Then, after insisting that the sign be moved 24 feet and that 11 square feet of illegally filled-in wetlands be restored, the DEP granted those permits. The EHT Planning Board then approved the sign a second time.

Levitt, who says the sign's LED display shines into his bedroom across the marsh in Northfield, initially won an injunction getting the signed turned off as his lawsuit proceeded. The billboard has been dark since June 2012. And now, in an Aug. 23 ruling, Mendez has ordered the sign's owners to submit a demolition plan within 45 days and have the sign taken down no more than 60 days later.

Atkins would be wise to drop any plans to appeal. This sign was an immediate visual and esthetic outrage from the moment it went up. And now it is more than clear that its approval was a legal outrage as well.

It certainly seems to us that a further investigation of just how this sign came to be approved by the Planning Board is warranted.

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