Back to the new 50-foot (or is it 60-foot?) electronic billboard on the Margate Causeway ...
In March, we said this mammoth LED sign was terribly out of place on the scenic coastal causeway and an affront to the road's natural beauty.
Well, there have been some new developments in this story. And it turns out this sign may very well be an affront to the law, as well.
First, the developers - the sign is on property leased by Hackney's Boat Yard Inc. to Moorestown-based Jersey Outdoor Media in what is actually Egg Harbor Township - have been cited by the Department of Environmental Protection for "unauthorized development activities in the coastal zone" and "within a coastal wetland."
Last month, it was not clear if the project required a Coastal Area Facilities Review Act permit, which must be obtained before construction begins. Now, it's clear that a CAFRA permit was indeed required - and that the developers did not have one. They have subsequently - and belatedly - applied for a CAFRA permit. The DEP also contends that the project needed and does not have a coastal wetlands permit.
Meanwhile, a Northfield resident who says the LED sign shines into the bedroom window of his home, has filed a lawsuit claiming, among other things, that the developers illegally filled in wetlands in order to build the sign.
The suit filed by Richard Levitt - who, as chairman of the Northfield Planning Board, knows a little something about these matters - also says that the sign is 60 feet tall - not 50 feet - which would put it over the allowable height limit under the EHT zoning ordinance. Levitt's suit further contends the sign is closer than 1,000 feet to the nearest other billboard, which would also be a violation of the EHT code - and that's whether the signs are measured from their nearest points or their midpoints, the suit says.
All of these claims will have to be adjudicated by the courts and the DEP. But this much is clear right now: The sign needed a CAFRA permit and did not have one. There's at least a question of whether it sits on illegally filled-in wetlands. And there is even a question of how tall, in fact, it is and how close it is to the nearest other sign - two issues that should be easily verifiable.
The Margate Causeway is a noncontiguous part of the township, which means there are no nearby EHT residents (or voters) who would have objected to the sign. And that raises this question: Would this out-of-place billboard have had such an easy ride through the EHT approval process if it were anywhere else in the township?
Clearly, this project did not get the scrutiny it warranted.