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Appellate Division Affirms Franklin Township Ban on Digital Billboards

The New Jersey Appellate Division recently upheld a decision by Franklin Township, New Jersey to ban digital billboards along a stretch of Interstate 287, while allowing static billboards to be implemented. The Appellate Division determined that no violation of the First Amendment took place as part of the ban, with Judge Marianne Espinosa stating that “on its face, the ordinance does not restrict any speech based on its content.”

In E&J Equities v. Township of Franklin, plaintiff E&J Equities had requested a permit in 2009 for a digital billboard on I-287 which would change the image displayed every eight seconds. The proposed billboard would not include any animation, flashing, or scrolling text. The permit was approved by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, with the caveat that E&J would still need to get approval from Franklin Township for the billboard.

The lawsuit came about as the ordinance in Franklin banning digital billboards was adopted while E&J’s application to erect such a billboard was still pending. In the first trial court, it was determined By Judge Peter Buchsbaum that while the township’s decision was not “arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable,” it did violate the First Amendment. The Appellate Division, however found that “The trial court’s interpretation imposed a burden on the township that is not required for content-neutral restrictions on time, place and manner expression.”

The attorneys of Lieberman Blecher & Sinkevich are well versed in municipal zoning and ordinance laws and regulations, and will be following the progress of this matter. Our attorneys have assisted clients in matters of zoning and land use ranging from opposition to cell tower construction, to development of protected wetlands areas, and have represented community organizations opposed to electronic billboards such as this. If you are concerned about the development or zoning laws of your area, you can contact our office to discuss your concerns with a member of our staff.

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