The digital side of the billboard, which was approved in September, will face Northfield.

Well isn't this a shame.

One of the great, unheralded joys of living at the Jersey Shore is driving over the many causeways between the mainland communities and the barrier islands. The wide-open views of coastal salt marshes and bays provide a stunning panorama. And as novelist Pat Conroy once wrote about similar salt marshes in his native South Carolina, their ever-changing beauty, which varies with the time of day and time of year, can teach you more about the color green than you thought was possible.

Sadly, some of these causeways are dotted with billboards. Mostly, they are relatively small, wooden billboards. But this new billboard on the Margate Causeway is an unfortunate game-changer.

Fifty-feet high, it towers over the marshes and existing structures, sullying the view for miles around. Even worse, the side facing Northfield will have an especially distracting electronic LED display.

New Jersey's zoning and environmental rules are constantly under attack for being too strict, but there was apparently nothing stopping the owners of Hackney's Boat Yard from getting approvals from Egg Harbor Township and leasing the site to Jersey Outdoor Media, which erected the sign. Fifty-foot billboards are a permitted use in the township's marine zoning district, and state rules under the Coastal Area Facilities Review Act apparently did not apply to the upland site.

But it's still a travesty, an eyesore and an affront to the natural surroundings, if you ask us.

Richard Levitt, a Northfield Planning Board member whose home overlooks the marshes, agrees. This giant new sign is now an unexpected and unwelcome part of his view.

One of the oddities of this area is that the Margate Causeway, which connects Northfield and Margate, is actually in Egg Harbor Township. So it was township rules that applied and township planners who approved a sign that no one in Egg Harbor Township can see from their homes.

And if one land owner was allowed to put up a sign like this, others will be allowed, too. How nice. Someday the Margate Causeway could have all the appeal of an interstate highway.

Levitt said EHT should have been more sensitive to its Northfield and Margate neighbors. Perhaps. But an even better approach would be for the township to reconsider the zoning along the causeway to prohibit such large signs. Now that really would be neighborly.


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