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Township Billboard Enterprise Back on the Table in Jackson

JACKSON-In 2009, Jackson Township’s elected officials expressed a desire to build billboards along Interstate 195 to generate revenue for the municipality, but that initiative never really left the ground.

At the January 24th council meeting, Council President Ken Bressi attempted to resurrect the 8 year old plan and asked township attorney Jean Cipriani to again look into the legal ramifications of a township run monopoly on advertising billboards.

Councilman Ken Bressi was lukewarm to the idea.

“I went through a list of stuff that we have concerns for and that if we’re even going to look at this, we have to get all that data,” Council President Ken Bressi said.  “I’d like to see how my peers feel about it…and make some decisions on it.”

“Where do you want them permitted? Only on public land, on certain roads, on certain sections of roads, absolutely we can do it,” Cipriani told the council.  “But in terms of the size, if you’re going to keep that size, you have to think about where it makes sense to have them and the proximity you would allow them to be in.”

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Under the original plan, only the township would be allowed to install and build billboards and only on township property.  Bressi wanted to know how to keep private landowners between township owned lots from building their own billboards.

“What if the township as lot A and H, what if somebody has one in the middle, can we stop them from doing it?” Bressi asked.  “That’s why I went through all these questions with counsel and what kind of revenue they can bring in.”

The township seeks to enact spot zoning that would allow billboards only on lots owned by the township, which would require a change to those lots in the existing master plan.

The township owns 3 or 4 lots along the I-195 corridor according to Township Clerk Eden.

“I know the original concept was on township properties, I’d like to follow through with that,” Councilman Nixon said.  “We might want to ensure that what we’re doing and the advice to what is spot zoning and what isn’t.”

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The then Democrat majority council didn’t support the billboard plan in 2009.

Former councilman Howard Tillis said at the time, he drove from Belmar to Jackson along I-195 through Jackson’s exit 21 and he didn’t see any billboards.

“I see it as roadside graffiti,” Tillis told the council in 2009.

The council felt the township should be the only ones in the billboard market because, “Nobody wants to drive down 195 and see wall-to-wall billboards.”

“This issue is certainly a positive to the township from a revenue perspective and as an economic development driver as we look to the expansion off the 195 corridor and what could ultimately occur in the six flags area as they continue their success, hopefully in the future…I think there’s some value in us proceeding in the near future on it.”

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Billboards have come up several times over the years as a way for Jackson Township to generate additional revenue.

Residents over the years have also had mixed opinions on the billboard experiment. According to OutdoorBillboard.com, the going rates for monthly advertising per billboard on I-195 can bring in anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500 per month, not including cost to purchase and install the billboards or maintenance or other costs the township would need to invest in, including marketing material, graphic design, engineering, customer management services and other expenses involved in operating a billboard business.

The township has yet to release any financial plan or analysis on such an enterprise.

The topic is expected to be addressed again at the next meeting on Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, February 14th.

Photo: Google Maps billboard in nearby Millstone Twp.

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