FLEMINGTON, NJ – The Borough’s Zoning Board is expected to conclude its consideration of the electronic billboards proposed for the Flemington traffic circle at its meeting tomorrow.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Although the Borough’s website states that the meeting will be held in Borough Hall, it was announced at the Board’s previous hearing on the billboards that it would continue at the old Historic Courthouse on Main Street.
At that meeting, held Oct. 7, Jaclyn D’Arminio, the attorney representing applicant Catalyst Outdoor Development/ Flemington Outdoor, repeatedly stated she was unable or unwilling to answer some questions from the public.
Resident Chris Englehardt asked for renderings of the project from sidewalk level, and D’Arminio answered, “We don’t have someone capable of doing that today.” She also added that “we don’t have that (view) prepared.”
In response to a request that she show a slide previously submitted, D’Arminio said, “Unfortunately our technological master is not available today” and so she could not project the slide.
Resident Lois Stewart asked, “Have other municipalities in Hunterdon been approached?” for similar billboards.
“We can’t say at this time,” D’Arminio answered.
When Board member Susan Englehardt noted that they had testified previously that Raritan Township had been approached, the attorney responded, “That was our testimony. Other than that we can’t say at this time.”
Asked if it would be possible for the illuminated signs to sometimes be turned off, D’Arminio answered, “That’s not information that I have.”
The attorney bristled whenever a question was asked that might have been asked at a previous session. In response to being questioned about who would control advertising content on the billboards, she answered, “It was asked and answered at the first meeting. We’re not going to repeat … testimony.”
When Chris Englehardt questioned the visibility of billboard from within the circle, D’Arminio responded, “I believe that was our traffic engineer’s testimony … I cannot immediately recall it and he’s not available to answer it.” When she followed up by asking where the nearest location of a sign comparable to the proposed plan might be seen the attorney answered, “I don’t know.”
Resident Lois Stewart remarked on the frequency of responses such as “ ‘I don’t know, we don’t have that information.’ That is not the way to seek approval of something,” Stewart said. “It makes me question what it is they don’t want us to know. ”
Resident Steve Tuccio said it was “just absolutely outrageous” that the Zoning Board waived the need for the applicant to provide traffic studies.
Although some of the public seemed skeptical, the billboards have their supporters, including Tim Bebout, who owns Main Street Manor and is a member of the Flemington Community Partnership Board. He said he thought the proposal was “beautiful … This is an opportunity, if done correctly.”
Speaking as a member of the public, Councilperson Michael Harris observed, “Many of the statements this evening have been in regards to safety. And many of the statements this evening have been in regards to incomplete information.” He suggested the Board ask the applicant to return with its professionals to offer those answers.
But Zoning Board Chair Todd Cook said the Board would hear from its professionals, but “I expect zero, zero back and forth” between the Board and the applicant, who will only offer a closing statement.
Cook said he also made note of many apparent inconsistencies revealed by the public’s questions and would correct them at the next meeting.
“They were not inconsistencies,” Cook said. “They’re misrepresentations that the public did not hear, or perhaps were not paying attention.”