The Northfield, N.J., property initially proposed erecting a 21-sq. ft. sign with a brightness that was 300 nits. Despite agreeing to scale down its size, brightness, and the hours it would be lit, the Zoning Board rejected the application, citing an effort to limit commercialization on the otherwise residential road.
The Zoning Board rejected a variance application on February 4 brought by Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, N.J., to put up a digital sign on its property, after more than three hours of testimony, the Marmora, N.J.-based Shore News Today reported.
Ottinger Group, the owner of the country club, was seeking size and setback variances for the sign, which would have also exceeded the city code for brightness. Rocco Tedesco, attorney for the applicant, showed board members a drawing of the proposed LED sign. As proposed, the sign would be housed in a frame that resembles the front of the club. The original proposal called for a 21-sq. ft. sign, but Tedesco said his client would agree to reduce the size to 16 sq. ft., Today reported.
The sign as proposed was 300 nits, a unit used to measure the brightness of outdoor signs. Board member Clem Scharff said city code limits sign brightness to 50 nits. Tedesco said his client would reduce the nits to 50 if brightness compliance was a condition of approval, Today reported.
Initially, the applicant requested that the sign be lit during the club’s hours of operation, which on weekends is until midnight. After much discussion, Tedesco said his client would agree to turn the sign off at 10 p.m. as a condition for approval, Today reported.
Another point was that ACCC is in the country club zone, and any illuminated sign is a nonpermitted use and would require a variance. The sign would be a permitted use in the NB zone that abuts the 173-acre country club, which has been in existence since 1897. Ottinger was also seeking a 10-foot setback for the sign, where city code requires a 20-foot setback, Today reported.
Zoning Board members asked who would be responsible for moving the sign should the Department of Transportation decide to widen Shore Road, and Tedesco said that in that scenario his clients would move it at their expense. He said the Ottinger family has invested more than $1 million in the historic golf course and clubhouse and needs to find ways to make the investment profitable, Today reported.
General Manager John Igoe said that while the renovated club booked more than 30 weddings in its first year, it needs to draw more customers to the site during the week, Today reported.
“We know that we cannot survive on golf alone and need to have customers stopping in the Tap Room for lunch and dinner or for happy hours,” Igoe said. “We utilized a similar sign at our Scotland Run Country Club in Williamstown, and it has been a big help for our business, and we feel that it key to our success here as well.”
“People here in Northfield are hurting, and we are looking at a possible tax hike of 6 cents this year, and I think we have to do whatever we can to help keep our local businesses vibrant and help them to be successful,” Board member Frank Perri said.
Mayor Erland Chau said the intent of the city has always been to keep the residential nature of Shore Road and to limit the commercial aspect. He said he rejected a previous application for an LED sign and felt it was important to be consistent.
“Just because the applicant has made some concessions—just because they agreed to make a bad application better—does not mean we should approve it and he voted it down,” said Chairman Richard Levitt.
Board member Paul Newman, who lives in the area of the country club, said its two small signs on the driveway are “woefully undersized.”
“If this will alert people to where the club entrance is and there is a possible improvement to their business, then I am in favor of it,” he said.
Several neighbors spoke against the sign. Jeff Lischin, a member of Northfield City Council, spoke in favor of it, saying he wants the club to be successful and enjoys going there with his wife for dinner, and if the sign will contribute to the success then it should be approved, Today reported.
Liz Norton-Scanga, spokeswoman for the Ottinger Group and Atlantic City Country Club, said they were very disappointed the application failed to get Zoning Board approval and that no decision had been made about whether they will pursue it further, Today reported.