Digital billboards are approved for 10 locations on the township’s busiest roads, despite some residents begging the Township Committee to ban them because, they say, the signs distract drivers and cheapen the community’s image. “Drivers will be looking at the signs and there will be accidents,” said an animated Harold Herskowitz, 47, who turned an imaginary steering wheel while looking up in the air to demonstrate the distraction. “Do we really need the money that bad?” In addition to posing a distraction, the presence of digital billboards will cheapen the township’s image to the level of the “Vegas strip,” residents warned.
While the town allows billboards, digital billboards have not been a permitted use. The digital billboards will be privately owned, built, maintained and operated by one for-profit company that will meet the standards laid out by the new ordinance.
There will be no cost to the town. The digital billboards also will generate revenue of $500-a-year fee for locations along routes 9 and 88, 70, 623, 549; Cedar Bridge Avenue and West County Line and Lanes Mill roads.
The ordinance was adopted unanimously — after amending the permitted height from 65 to 40 feet— at Thursday’s Township Committee meeting.
Still, residents voiced concerns over the signs.
Noreen Gill, 70, said the signs are “degrading” in a town that has had much negative publicity, including a recent scandal over human-trafficking ring and brothels arrests.
Larry Simons, 77, balked at the initial proposal to allow the signs to be 65 feet in height.
“That is the equivalent of a six-story building,” Simons said in his opposition to the signs.
The billboards come with a host of stipulations, including no political advertising; allowing 10 percent of the screen be dedicated to township use as well as an 18-inch strip for public services messages; location restrictions and message details including no video or animation. The face of the total screen will be 14-by-48 feet.
“I have seen these all over the tri-state area,” Committeeman Raymond Coles said Friday. They are the same as any other billboard except the message changes.”
These are not the flashing red, neon billboards described by the residents who spoke against the ordinance, Coles said.