The electronic billboard that flashed to life near the Margate Causeway in April, a half-mile from Richard and Debbie Levitt's backyard, took the couple's breath away.

"This thing came towering up from the salt marsh . . . like a giant movie screen, changing every eight seconds," Richard says.

"It was horrible," Debbie adds.

The Northfield residents, both 65, have successfully sued to get the plug pulled - temporarily, at this point - on the action-packed LED light show. But they're still in disbelief.

Consider: The application that Jersey Outdoor Media submitted to the Egg Harbor Township planning board last year indicated the sign would be outside the protected wetlands.

"The planning board was misled," says Mark Friedman, the township's solicitor.

With the board's OK but no state authorization, the 60-foot-tall billboard with a 20-by-30-foot display area was erected on a mound of fill. The state Department of Environmental Protection later concluded the site indeed lies within the wetlands.

"When we built it we thought that [locating there] was permitted," insists Chet Atkins, owner of Jersey Outdoor Media, in Moorestown. "Otherwise, we wouldn't have built it."

The Levitts sued the township and Jersey Outdoor in April, seeking to have the billboard - which beamed into their bedroom - removed.

In May, the company fired back, filing a complaint that alleged the couple had themselves illegally filled in wetlands at their bayside home. The state found no basis for the allegation.

On Friday, a planning board hearing on a Jersey Outdoor application to move the billboard's base 25 feet west, out of the wetlands, was postponed. No date has been set, and the Levitts' "Kafkaesque" quest continues.

The Department of Environmental Protection already has issued a permit for the new location and a yes vote by the board could lead to a lifting of the Superior Court injunction that has kept the display dark since June.

Says Atkins, "My hope is we can move on with our business." Although Margate and Northfield have passed resolutions opposing the billboard, "it's a rumor that nobody likes it," he insists.

"If that's the case, why is it sold out? People are waiting for it to be turned on."

The billboard's location near the Margate Causeway, which carries Route 563 across the Intracoastal Waterway between Northfield and Margate, "is not a pristine bit of shoreline that has never been disturbed," says Peter Boyer, the attorney for Jersey Outdoor.

"This billboard is located on a traffic corridor, around other commercial properties, and around other billboards."

The Jersey Outdoors billboard is "too big," says Stephen Hankin, an attorney for the Levitts. "It doesn't belong there, and the lights destroy" a scenic vista.

The couple believe the billboard would never have happened without the Christie administration's mission to be "business-friendly," including in environmental matters.

"I've heard those complaints, and that's not the case," says Larry Hajna, a DEP spokesman. "We are required to interpret and apply the regulations."

The Levitts have lived in their gracious bayside home for 35 years.

"We [used to] look at bald eagles, the wildlife, the wild grasses that are always changing," says Richard, a periodontist. "Instead, we were looking at beer ads."

Even on the relocated base, Jersey Outdoor has designed the new billboard to rise into the exact same airspace.

Richard thinks a better place would be the Atlantic City Expressway.

I'd say Las Vegas, or Times Square.