Upper Saddle River Planning Board Denies Application for Digital Billboard, Citing Visual Clutter

In a decisive decision on Thursday, July 27, 2023, the Upper Saddle River Borough Planning Board rejected a proposal for a double-faced multi-message billboard sign and LED display at 306 Route 17 North. The decision came after extensive deliberation and testimony, reflecting concerns over visual clutter and adherence to zoning requirements. The application was brought by Kein Outdoor Advertising, Inc. and was denied with a 6-1 vote.

During the meeting, Gerald Salerno Esq., representing Kein Outdoor Advertising, advised that three witnesses would provide testimony to address concerns raised by the Board at a previous hearing. David Klein, the applicant, testified that the proposed billboard’s design was consistent with industry trends, presenting photographs to illustrate its impact from different angles. Mr. Klein also emphasized that the billboard would be smaller than most located on other major highways in New Jersey.

John Tobias, PH.D & PE, a professional engineer in electrical engineering, provided an analysis of the lighting from the proposed billboard, concluding that the contribution to area lighting would be minimal. Discussion ensued about the ambient lighting, adjustments of brightness at different times of day, and a comparison with other sources of light.

However, the Board’s concerns revolved around the visual clutter that the billboard might add to the site. Members questioned the billboard’s location, size, and impact on the surrounding properties. Borough Planner Joseph Burgis expressed that the billboard must be considered a principal use, rather than an accessory use, and cited the NJ Supreme Court Decision known as Coventry Square as a reference.

Board members expressed concerns regarding the billboard’s potential to add to visual clutter on the site. Joseph Donato, Richard Richardi, Robert Jacobs, Chris Wiederholz, and Todd Bakal all emphasized that the site was not suited for additional signage. James Virgona, presiding over the meeting, noted concern about the location and intensity of the property.

After deliberation, a motion to deny the application was made by Mr. Wiederholz and seconded by Mr. Richardi, passing with six affirmative votes and one abstention by Mr. Virgona.

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Planning Board Members:
Upper Saddle River

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