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Planning Board Approves Billboards Along Route 42

Cooper Health System received the go-ahead to erect three billboards—each up to 60 feet tall—on property it owns along the state highway.

Expect to see billboards, including one with a changing sign face, looming over the stretch of Route 42 running through the township.

During a special meeting Wednesday night, the township planning board  unanimously granted preliminary and final approval to a proposal by Cooper Health System to place three billboards—each up to 60 feet high—on land it owns along the state highway.

Two of the billboards will have static signs, and the third will be digital, with rotating messages.

Cooper owns an undeveloped 113-acre parcel north of College Drive between Route 42 and the Black Horse Pike, to the west of Blackwood campus.

Susan Bass Levin, president of Cooper Health System Foundation and a former Democratic mayor of Cherry Hill, told the board that taxpayers will benefit from the installation of the potentially lucrative billboards.

For each of the first five years after the billboards are erected, the township will get 12 percent of the net revenue from sign rentals. Over each of the ensuing 10 years, the township gets 6 percent of the revenue. In each case, the maximum benefit to the township will be $45,000 per year, Levin said. And, she said, the township will get 10 "flips"—which could be used for announcements or public-safety messages—on the digital sign every 24 hours for 15 years.

Levin said that in keeping with the redevelopment agreement for the property, the billboards will not advertise tobacco products, nor will any of them remain blank for more than 60 days at a stretch.

Although Cooper obtained the approvals through Gloucester 42 Associates, a limited-liability company it created, the health system has no intention of getting directly into the billboard business.

In essence, Cooper will sell the approvals it received Wednesday night to an outdoor-advertising company that will construct the billboards and rent space on them.

Cooper has not yet chosen the company, Levin said.

Eyesores?

Despite the potential revenue flowing to the township, one former planning board member criticized the decision to allow new billboards on that stretch of the highway.

In 2006, a redevelopment plan adopted by the township limited the number and size of billboards allowed on the property. But, this past August, at Cooper's request, council amended the plan and eased those restrictions, allowing for up to four billboards.

"This is a contradiction that flies in the face of this previous, prudent planning," said Dennis Palmer, a past board chairman who left his seat in June because he wasn't reappointed by Mayor David Mayer.

"We don't want to see Gloucester Township turn into the Expressway going into Atlantic City," Palmer said before the meeting, referring to the plethora of billboards crowding the stretch of highway leading into America's Playground.

Mayer did not return a call Wednesday afternoon seeking comment on the proposal.

Mayer is closely allied with powerful South Jersey Democrats led by George E. Norcross III. Norcross is chairman of Cooper Health System's board of trustees.

Planning Board Solicitor Michael McKenna  acknowledged during the meeting that per the board's general policy, it was unusual for its members to grant both preliminary and final approval to a project in one night.

But, he told the members before they voted, "It's not a building, it's not retail. It's a sign. You don’t need to see (the application) twice."

Cooper's township property is known as the Interchange Redevelopment Area. When it was first moved forward for redevelopment in 2006 under the name "Cooper Medical Services," the Interchange Redevelopment Area was to be anchored by a medical facility affiliated with Cooper University Hospital.

But Levin said the plan has since changed.

"It will be private development, and a smaller portion will be some type of medical use," she said of future phases. The billboards, she said, "are a necessary way to bring in revenue to offset the cost of the development project."

Cooper will also benefit from a new $5.8 million interchange that  Tuesday in the township. Exit 7B provides traffic from Route 42 with direct access to the health system's township property, and to the college.

The new exit is the first full interchange added to the state highway since it was constructed in the 1950s, county officials said.

Paul J. DiBartolo November 17, 2011 at 01:20 PM
All it takes is money, right? As per the article, "a redevelopment plan adopted by the township limited the number and size of billboards allowed on the property." So, why was it a good idea back in 2006 to make such limits but this past August it became a better idea to "amend(ed) the plan and ease(d) those restrictions"? Susan Bass Levin (former C.H. Democratic mayor), David Mayer (present GT Democratic mayor) and George Norcross (the kingpin - C.C. Democratic political boss and "chairman of Cooper Health System's board of trustees", ...Politicians and corruption as far as the eye can see but not an honest deal to be found. And then there's the final stab in the back to the Gloucester Township residents..."the township planning board unanimously granted preliminary and final approval" all on the same night. Continuing, "...it (was) acknowledged during the meeting that per the board's general policy, it was unusual for its members to grant both preliminary and final approval to a project in one night." You bet it was, I've sat in planning board meetings where people were hassled and turned down trying to erect fences on their own property but getting the board to reverse its own decisions is easy if you know the right people.
ymdbfa November 17, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Will the company the buys the rights to the signs be one of the Kevin Piccolo LLC's that are run out of his real estate office on the Black Horse Pike? Follow the money. Who will Cooper sell the rights to? Which party insider is going to make money off of this?
John Reynolds November 17, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Cooper can put up signs from Camden to Atlantic City and they'll still suck. People working in the medical profession that live in south jersey go to the hospitals across the river.
Charles November 17, 2011 at 04:12 PM
Can you say, "VIRTUA"? Great place for medicine; not so good for politics.
Darren Gladden November 17, 2011 at 05:52 PM
VIRTUA and fox chase save my life .
Michelle Wolfson November 17, 2011 at 05:59 PM
John, being a Philly native, for the first few years we lived here, I would cross the bridge to Jefferson, including for the birth of my daughter. Since then I have had 2 additional children and 2 surgeries at Virtua, and I think they are a fine hospital.
Michelle Wolfson November 17, 2011 at 07:58 PM
I wonder if there have been other similar proposals turned down since the 2006 redevelopment plan? Now that is something that would be interesting to know.
Paul J. DiBartolo November 18, 2011 at 12:02 AM
See if my experience with the Zoning Board resonates with the current situation, Michelle. I live in old Blackwood where the lots were originally zoned at 50'W x 150'L in the fifties. Some people built on single lots, others bought double and triple wides. My property, at a dead end, and the property across the street were both triple wides. Afterwards the board decided that 50' widths were not in keeping with how things were going and revised the requirement to 75' minimum widths for new builds. The owners of the property across the street wanted to have their son build on their property and had to divide their triple wide (150') into two 75 footers. A few years back the owner of a double wide (100') catercorner from me passed away and the property was purchased by a builder. The builder filed for a variance to skirt the 75' width requirement and divide the 100' wide in two so he could build a new house on a 50' wide lot. At the meeting I asked the zoning board to honor the law as they had revised it. I was told by the chair person that the builder had a right to make a profit and if I was against a house being built there I should buy the property myself...across the street from where I lived. That was the height of arrogance in my opinion. It seems apparent to me that there was more than met the eye. I can guarantee you that if I went there seeking to divide off 50' of my 150' wide lot I would be told to abide by the zoning law that requires building lots to be 75' wide.
John Reynolds November 18, 2011 at 12:56 AM
Michelle, Virtua's OK, but HUP is the best hospital in the area. For routine care you can go almost anywhere, but if a complication arises, you'd want the best docs, and they're in Philly. My sister and GF work in health care and have worked in Philly and Jersey. When they have a problem they go to Philly.
John Reynolds November 18, 2011 at 12:59 AM
Paul, if you have a zoning or code issue, slip YAMBY some cash and the problem will disappear.
ymbdfa November 18, 2011 at 02:07 AM
Crystal I mean, YMDBFA,Why do all your post originate from the Turnersville DMV?
ymbdfa November 18, 2011 at 02:13 AM
John your “sister and GF?” I thought you were from South Philly. I didn't realize you were from South Carolina
Justin November 18, 2011 at 04:37 AM
Now that Mayor Mayer has his puppets on council, here comes George and here comes his pet projects - Camden is coming to Gloucester Township and COAH queen Susan Bass Levin is bringing in more Section 8 - All democratic council will vote - Siler served when Love brought in Britney Woods, Reveria Run and Section 8 is good Federal money, run down neighborhoods and tax free Cooper all coming to Gloucester Township. You voted them in, you get what's coming.
Justin November 18, 2011 at 04:42 AM
Norcross needs those 7 Democratic puppets to vote YES on everything he wants. Norcross spent our stimulus money on those circles and lights to make the off ramp to his CCC. Amazing, we have roads that look like dumps. COAH that is former DCA Susan Bass Levin and her buddy former Mayor and COAH Queen team Sandy Love who brought in all this section 8. Love served as Mayor for 15 years and look what happened. Abandon buildings, LaCascata, Britney Woods, Revera Run and much much more. They've made millions on taxpayers. They love those voting machines, they are a sure win. He has no one to buck against him. His puppets will do as they are told.
Justin November 18, 2011 at 04:54 AM
Susan Bass Levin - career politician retires on day she qualifies for pension http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/11/nj_career_politician_retires_o.html
Justin November 18, 2011 at 04:55 AM
Frank, your part of this, you should know the answer. Look at how you administered this deal Frank. Think. Bet it was a SWEET deal for you!

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