A 40-foot tall digital billboard would replace the existing 22-foot billboard at 187 Riverside Avenue. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)


hot topicThe company seeking to erect a giant digital billboard at Red Bank’s northern gateway already has a state permit to light one up at the southern gateway, a representative acknowledged Thursday night.

But Outfront Media LLC may use the permit simply to block competitors, a company official testified to the zoning board.

Zoning board member Vincent Light at Thursday’s hearing, above. Below, a rendering shows what the billboard would look like to motorists heading south from on Cooper’s Bridge. (Photo by John T. Ward, illustration by Outfront Media. Click to enlarge.)

Outfront is seeking variances to erect a 40-foot-high LED display at the vacant former gas station at 187 Riverside Avenue.

The billboard would be visible to traffic heading into town on the Route 35 Cooper’s Bridge across the Navesink River.

Variances are needed because billboards are not permitted anywhere in town. Nearly two dozen exist, however, under laws that allow ‘grandfather’ uses that predate bans to continue.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation requires electronic billboards to obtain permits certifying they meet safety and other standards. Municipalities still have the final say, however, over whether to allow the devices.

In testimony, John Antal, Outfront’s general manager for New Jersey, told the board the company obtained its permit for the Riverside Avenue site in late 2021.

Its messaging would change every eight seconds, in conformance with DOT regulations, he said.

The company, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, has about 3,900 billboards in New Jersey, including 93 digital boards, Antal said. Local examples are on Route 35 in Holmdel and Ocean Township, he said.

In Red Bank, where about two dozen billboards are grandfathered, Outfront owns “more than 20,” Antal said.

The company has no plans for digital signage elsewhere in town, Antal told the board.  That could change, he acknowledged, in response to a questioning by board member Rich Angowski.

But after a brief recess in the hearing, board member Vincent Light said he had noticed within Outfront’s submissions a list that appeared to show Outfront already has DOT permission to erect a digital board at the intersection on Newman Springs Road, just off Broad Street.

Antal acknowledged the existence of the permit.

“Just because we hold a state digital permit doesn’t mean we intend to go for local application and permit,” Antal said.

He cited state regulations that require any two digital signs be no closer than 3,000 feet.

“It’s part of the business,” Antal said. “One of the things you can do with a state permit is you can space out other people from having it.”

“So tonight, as far as you know, you’re not doing this,” said board Chairperson Lauren Nicosia. But “tomorrow morning, that might be different, correct?”

Antal acknowledged that it could.

No comments were taken from the audience; those will follow the completion of testimony. The zoning board is scheduled to resume the hearing on Outfront’s application at its April 20 meeting.

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