Jackson Weighs Billboards

One of the few billboards around Jackson Township. The law prohibits billboards on township property, something some residents and council members want to see changed to bring in revenue. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

JACKSON – Billboards might a good idea to raise capital. But by law they aren’t permitted in Jackson.

Resident Richard Egan asked that Council consider allowing billboards along Route 195 on township property. The proposal received enthusiastic agreement from the dais.

“I am a huge advocate for pursuing revenue through billboard rentals on township property along the 195 corridor,” councilman Barry Calogero told the newspaper.

However, signs are regulated under the township’s land use and development code, which prohibits “Billboard sign (off-premises sign, outdoor advertising sign).” The code defines a billboard as “[a] structure utilized for advertising an establishment, an activity, a product, a service or an entertainment which is sold, produced, manufactured, available or furnished at a place other than on the property on which said sign is located.”

It’s unclear when that code was written and adopted, and though there are some billboards in Jackson, it was not immediately known when they were erected, who owns them, whether they were grandfathered in before the regulations were adopted.

  The Jackson Times asked municipal attorney Jean Cipriani about the code.

“It is correct that billboards are not currently permitted. This is the section that the governing body will be considering changing once our memorandum regarding same is received,” she wrote.

There was a 120-day moratorium on billboards throughout the state in 2003, but NJ Department of Transportation official Daniel Triana told The Jackson Times there is no moratorium today.

“The New Jersey Department of Transportation does not have a moratorium or bans on billboards along state highways. There are some continuing historical restrictions along a few state highways (i.e the Garden State Parkway) and scenic byways such as the Pine Lands, and the Palisades Scenic Byway,” Triana said. “The Department issues conditional permits once an application meets established state regulations. Regulations ensure among other things, that a proposed billboard would not encroach on restricted areas because of proximity to intersections, ramps or interchanges. After receiving a conditional state permit from the Office of Outdoor Advertising Services (OOAS), a requester is required to obtain municipal approval. Both state and municipal approval is needed.”

There are no billboards on Route 195 between Jackson and Wall Townships.

There are a few billboards in town, such as one on County Road 526 between Jackson Mills Road and Route 527. Township zoning officer Jeffrey Purpuro said his office doesn’t keep a list of billboards in town. The township, county and state could not verify on whose land that billboard was. Outfront Media owns the billboard. The Jackson Times asked the company who owns the land their billboard is on, but they did not respond by press time.

Several people interviewed said the topic of billboards in town was discussed at least a decade ago if not longer, and the idea was scrapped then because there was no way to control the content of the billboards.

“Years ago we had a different council. We had tried to move forward on billboards again. Three members of the council had put up placards of what they considered risqué ads, so that was their reasoning to kill it,” Egan said. “No one is saying to have things that are offensive…I’m sure we can find tastefully crafted ads that won’t offend anyone.”

Council vice president Kenneth Bressi told The Jackson Times that he is neither for or against billboards at this point. He wants to study the issue more to evaluate the financial and other impacts of having billboards in town.

“It’s the offensiveness to other people. You have them on 195, fine. You have to watch where you put them in town, because people don’t want to look out of their house and see a billboard. The other thing is, you cannot stop someone from writing what they want on it if they paid for it. So you can be exposed to some pretty nasty stuff.”

Egan stressed that he wants to see them on the highway only, not scattered throughout the township.

Bressi brought up other concerns, including the maintenance of the billboards and where the township actually owns land on that corridor. Any other landowners in the right-of-way to township land is likely entitled to some of those billboard profits.

“It’s a clean economic boost because it requires no police, no fire, no children in schools, no sanitation. It stares at you on the highway and produces revenue,” Egan said. “How bad can it be?”