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12/23/2006

Ordinance vote on billboards set in Mansfield

By MELISSA HAYES
Burlington County Times

MANSFIELD - Another large crowd is expected for this week's Township Committee meeting when an ordinance that would allow large billboards to be erected along Interstate 295 is scheduled for a second reading and final vote.

Resident Marion Tallon, a member of Concerned Citizens of Mansfield, said the group is working to assure a large turnout at Wednesday's meeting. She noted many residents were encouraged by a recent decision by the township Planning Board to recommend that the ordinance be defeated.

"We are so proud to live in a town where the Planning Board treated us with respect and listened to what we had to say," Tallon said.

About 50 residents attended that Dec. 19 meeting and many spoke out against the billboards. Roughly the same number attended the Nov. 29 Township Committee meeting, many of them protesting with signs before the meeting began.

At issue is an ordinance that would allow Interstate Outdoor Advertising of Cherry Hill to construct four billboards on private property. Two 65-foot-tall billboards would be on properties along Hedding Road facing Interstate 295, and two 90-foot-tall signs would be near where Interstate 295 crosses over the New Jersey Turnpike Extension.

After hearing the residents, the Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend the township not allow billboards in the township. Township Manager Joe Broski, who sits on the board, abstained and members Scott Preidel and Ken Denti were not at the meeting.

"It was unanimous," board chairman Fred Clark said. "They were very attentive to the concerned citizens."

Clark said the residents made good points and weren't repetitive in their comments to the board. He limited speaking time to five minutes and gave everyone who wanted to the opportunity to speak.

"It was conducted well," he said. "Afterwards, I was thanked that I gave them their time."

Stuart Lieberman, a Princeton-based attorney representing Concerned Citizens, also said the meeting went well and that both sides were respectful of one another.

Lieberman said the board was "unanimously clear" that the billboards go against the township's master plan.

Committeewoman Terri Tallon-Hammill has been opposed to the ordinance for that reason.

"It's not in sync with our master plan, which is to preserve our rural landscape and the historic value of our community," she said.

Lieberman said he believes this week's Township Committee meeting will also go well.

"I think that my clients are going to be very respectful and they're just going to say what they think has to be heard," he said. "I'm confident that the governing body is going to do the right thing here. There's no other option."

E-Mail: MELISSA HAYES