Mount Laurel, NJ receives Stafford Award for winning billboard battle

Scenic America has presented its Stafford Award to Mayor Linda Bobo and the citizens of Mount Laurel for their successful years-long effort to prohibit billboards in the township. The Award was presented at the Township Council meeting on April 22, 2013 by Scenic America President Mary Tracy and Board Member Carl E. Hintz.  The presentation was covered by both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Burlington County Times.

“We are thrilled to present this award to Mayor Bobo and the township of Mount Laurel for standing tall against the forces of blight,” said Tracy. “They are to be commended for rigorously defending their vision for the township and not backing down against an industry with deep pockets and a track record of using intimidation to get what they want.”

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Scenic America President Mary Tracy presents the Stafford Award to Mount Laurel Mayor Linda Bobo.  Photo by Kristen Cappock for the Burlington County Times.

Mount Laurel’s ban on billboards was challenged by a sign company that sought permission from the town’s zoning board to erect four billboards along I-295. But the township’s ban was upheld by several courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, which said that the town’s “conclusion that billboards affect traffic safety and aesthetics” was reasonable, and that municipalities have the right to ban billboards. The entire 3rd Circuit is impacted by the case, which set a precedent in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

“The citizens and public officials of Mount Laurel should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished,” said Tracy. “Their success serves as inspiration and motivation to people and towns all over the country who want to protect themselves from billboard blight but who’ve been afraid to stand up to an industry with enormous resources. Every town should have the right to determine how they want to look, and Mount Laurel proved it can be done.”

The Stafford Award is named for former U.S. Senator Robert Stafford of Vermont, for his concern for the environment and efforts to strengthen federal highway beautification laws. Previous recipients include Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Governor Pete Wilson of California, Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island and U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena.