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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) was caught by New Brunswick Today violating the conditions of a zoning variance granted by the city government earlier this year.
The city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to approve the hospital’s request for a 900-square-foot “digital billboard,” or “jumbotron,” in May.
Since July, the sign has displayed a steady rotation of advertisements for the hospital and its partner 24 hours a day, seven days a week from ten stories above New Brunswick.
The resolution of memorialization approved by the Zoning Board says that, “The images displayed on the board shall not flash, scroll, or have moving images,” and even specifies that each image must be displayed for a minimum of eight seconds.
According to the meeting minutes, those restrictions were inspired by NJ Department of Transportation (NJDOT) rules designed to keep digital billboards from distracting drivers.
But, in November, NBToday noticed that the hospital was using the Jumbotron to display an animation of a beating heart, with four different laudatory messages about the hospital faded in and out.
On November 24, this reporter captured an animated advertisement, playing at a rate of roughly 30 frames per second. That video was shared with the city’s Planning Director on November 25.
Glenn Patterson, the Director of Planning Community and Economic Development, informed New Brunswick Today that the hospital had corrected the violation on November 30.
For their part, the hospital says that they did not believe such an ad would consitute a zoning violation and that no one else has complained.
“We did not believe that the image you identified constituted a zoning violation since it involved one static, pulsing image,” said hospital spokesperson Peter Haigney.
“Once the city reached out to us, we immediately addressed the issue,” Haigney said.
The hospital was represented by Thomas F. Kelso, a land use attorney who is also the top lawyer for the Middlesex County government.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.