Most New Jersey municipalities have sign ordinances that dictate the type, location, and size of signage. The goals of local regulations generally include protecting the character of the community and preventing visual “clutter” in downtown and other commercial districts. For instance, Red bank currently prohibits all billboards and blinking signs. In order to comply with the First Amendment, sign restrictions must be content-neutral. They must also advance a “legitimate governmental interest,” such as protecting public health, safety, morals, and general welfare.
For businesses, signs not only help attract and direct customers to their location, but also serve to solidify the company’s identity. However, in order to avoid running afoul of local ordinances, companies must be sure to obtain the proper permits and verify that all proposed signage complies with the code. Failing to do so prior to ordering and installing signs can be a costly mistake.
Amending Red Bank’s Sign Ordinance
In Red Bank, government officials have been working for several years to streamline the municipality’s sign ordinance. The current debate is whether the proposal to amend the code goes far enough.
James Scavone, executive director of Red Bank River Center, has been a vocal critic. River Center, a non-profit organization, manages Red Bank’s Special Improvement District. “We feel the current draft is injurious to business development in Red Bank and I urge [the council] to reconsider its introduction,” Scavone told The Hub.
According to Scavone, the scaled-down version of the sign ordinance is still too burdensome on businesses and could hinder development. He notes that the sign code is still 14 pages long, which is twice the length of the sign regulations in towns like Princeton, Montclair and Cape May.
The proposed ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing on March 23, 2016. We will be closely following its progress and will post updates as they become available.