JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ – Are Lakewood-style digital advertising billboards coming to Jackson? Our phones lit up on Tuesday after an online rumor spread claiming Jackson Mayor Michael Reina was in talks with an unspecified Lakewood-based digital marketing and billboard company.
Township emails suggest officials were at one point, in discussions regarding the addition of billboards in Jackson Township. With who, is unknown and whether those discussions are ongoing has been confirmed.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in Jackson if Reina was once again pursuing billboards in Jackson. In 2016, Reina and his close political advisor Richard Egan proposed to build billboards along Interstate 195 and other locations through the township. That measure was shot down by then township attorney Jean Cipriani and Councilman Ken Bressi.
The town council at the time, full of Reina-aligned Republicans agreed with the mayor’s plan. There was just one problem. The construction of billboards was deemed illegal by the township attorney based on the town’s zoning ordinances.
Under township code, “[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,” is a prohibited use of land in Jackson.
That could be why those aligned with Reina are now seeking to revamp the town’s once solid master plan of 10 years ago, to a new master plan that takes into consideration the changing demographics in the township.
Three years after the public meeting in 2016, township officials were still discussing bringing billboards to town behind closed doors. An OPRA request of emails sent to Mayor Mike Reina’s account in late 2019, revealed that the billboard discussion had not gone away and was still a topic being discussed by the mayor and township officials.
That was only three years ago, but a lot has changed since. Digital billboards are everywhere across New Jersey. In nearby Lakewood digital billboards light up the night sky on many of the town’s main avenues.
According to the online rumor, Reina had met with vendors in Lakewood to discuss bringing their billboards into Jackson. There are no town council agenda items on the matter, but a Reina-backed project on Route 539 in Jackson features the largest digital billboard in Ocean County. Reina has always supported the commercialization and development of Jackson Township to increase tax revenue for the township coffers.
If true, you can expect to see billboards on Route 195 in Jackson, but also along commercial thoroughfares such as East Veterans Highway and Countyline Road.
We reached out to Mayor Reina on his personal cell phone early today and he refused to comment. We also made several calls to area billboard companies, but so far, none have returned our calls.
At this time, the rumor is unsubstantiated, but at the same time, there is no evidence to officially debunk it.
What we did find digging through an OPRA request of township emails, we did find several emails sent between Township Businesses Administrator Terrance Wall and Mayor Michael Reina with the subject “Billboards”. The contents of those emails (below) is unknown. Township officials only released the mayor and business administrator’s headers and not the complete files during a recent OPRA request.
If Reina or the billboard companies respond to our queries, we will update this story accordingly.