LAKEWOOD CELL TOWER HEARING POSTPONED - PERHAPS DUE TO PENDING LAWSUIT

Verizon's Zoning Board hearing to approve construction of a permanent cell phone tower on Georgian Court University's campus adjacent to BMG's proposed expansion will be postponed - yet again.

Verizon currently has a temporary wireless communication tower on Georgian Court University. They have applied to the Zoning Board for approval to replace that temporary tower with a permanent tower which would be installed in proximity to the location of the temporary tower. 

Use Variance relief is necessary from the Zoning Board as the Township's ordinances only permits wireless communication facilities in the M-1 industrial area zone or on properties owned by the municipality.

The application also seeks an additional variance from the Board. The Township ordinance requires wireless communication facilities to be setback 1,500 feet from residential dwelling units. The proposed tower would be situated about 358 feet away from at least one residential dwelling.

The BMG Roshei Yeshiva, the Satmar Dayan Rabbi Klein, as well as BMG Senior Posek Rabbi Forcheimer have signed letters opposing installation of additional cell towers in Lakewood.

The letter signed by the BMG Roshei Yeshiva states "these towers do not come free of serious health concerns and risks for the Lakewood community". The letter also states that installation of cell towers in residential areas "defies Torah law", and calls on Lakewood residents to "join the efforts to oppose these advancements".

The Board heard testimony on the application at their May 2nd public hearing, which was packed with residents who were objecting to the application.

Board Chairman Abe Halberstam noted that Beth Medrash Govoha recently purchased 42 acres of land from Georgian Court University in order to expand the yeshiva campus and build houses and a child care center. Mr. Halberstam asked if the location of the proposed tower would be impacted by the Setbacks required for the future BMG expansion. Verizon's Attorney Paul Schneider stated that to his knowledge, "no".

In middle of the hearing on the application, Board Member Meir Gelly stated that he is also a board member of BMG, and that Board Member Moish Glieberman is also an employee of BMG. Mr. Gelley stated that the 42 acres of land which BMG purchased is "a separate but adjoining property" from the location of the proposed cell tower. 

As previously reported here on FAA News (https://www.faanews.com/2022/06/zoning-board-members-should-recuse.html), despite the New Jersey State law which requires board members who own or are "related to" properties within 200 feet away from an application site to recuse themselves from applications, Board Chairman Halberstam permitted these board members to continue to sit on this application.

The Board continued hearing testimony on the application at the June 13 public hearing. The hearing was well attended by many residents in objection to the application.

As reported here on FAA News (https://www.faanews.com/2022/06/after-exposure-on-faa-lakewood-zoning.html), following our earlier exposure on the issue, at the June 13th public hearing, Board Chairman Jerry Dasti clarified that, despite Mr. Gelley's previous assertion that the 42 acres of land which BMG purchased is "a separate but adjoining property" from the location of the proposed cell tower, the entire Georgian Court University, including BMG's proposed expansion, is currently on one single lot, and as such, he noted that Mr. Glieberman and Mr. Gelley should recuse themselves.

At that point, Mr. Glieberman and Mr. Gelley did the right thing and recused themselves from the application.

At both public hearings only professionals for Verizon provided testimony. The Board did not open the floor to testimony from the public.

After 2 hours of testimony at the June 13th, the application was carried to the July 11th public hearing.

The application has not been brought back to the Board since then, as, at the July 11th public hearing it was carried to the July 18th public hearing and at that hearing it was again carried to the upcoming September 12th public hearing.

FAA News has learned that at the upcoming meeting this Monday night, Verizon plans on again carrying the application to a future hearing.

Perhaps Verizon is holding off on continuation of their application due to a pending lawsuit against another cell phone tower they previously received approval on top of the Senior Citizen resident building on Clifton Avenue and 5th Street.

Back in March, Lakewood Township's Zoning Board granted a Use Variance as well Bulk Variance relief to a Verizon subsidy to install a cell tower facility on top of the Senior Citizen resident building on Clifton Avenue and 5th Street.

Numerous neighbors attended the Zoning Board hearing and spoke up in opposition to the installation of the cell tower, citing health concerns due to the proximity of the proposed tower to residential homes.

Attorneys for Verizon counter asserted that the Zoning Board is precluded from considering the health effects of the cell tower, beyond whether they followed FCC guidelines.

In response to this assertion, the neighbors attempted to distribute to the Board articles regarding a Federal appeals court opinion that the FCC, which has not updated their guidelines regarding the standards for cell towers since 1996, has failed to adequately respond to credible evidence, such as from the American Academy of Pediatrics, of the impact of radio frequency radiation on children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has presented credible evidence that exposure to radio frequency radiation can have health impacts and environmental impacts even at levels lower that those permitted under the existing guidelines.

The neighbors implored the Board to table the application to a future date to permit them to retain a professional to better present their concerns to the Zoning Board.

The Zoning Board refused to postpone the hearing, and even to look at the federal court opinion after Board Attorney Jerry Dasti asserted the articles were irrelevant because "he is sure there are other articles that say differently."

In response to this approval, as previously reported here on FAA News (https://www.faanews.com/2022/05/lakewood-zoning-board-sued-after.html), the neighbors filed a Complaint in Lieu of Prerogative Writs asking the Superior Court to overturn the Zoning Board's decision, arguing that the Board's refusal to adjourn the hearing, despite multiple objectors requesting the opportunity to secure a expert witness was contrary to applicable law; and was arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and otherwise wrongful against the neighbors.

The neighbors are also charging that the Board's failure to consider evidence regarding the health and environmental impact of cell phone towers, and relying solely on the FCC standards - despite the Federal Court's opinion that the FCC standards are arbitrary and capricious in failing to support their conclusion to not update their wildly out of date standards, - as well as the Board's utter refusal to even accept and read the printed news article the neighbors attempted to present, was arbitrary and capricious.

This lawsuit was filed by Jan Meyer, a Land Use attorney and expert from Teaneck.

All parties involved in the case have recently submitted Pre-trial memos, and Judge Ford has scheduled a trial Readiness Conference for this case on October 13th. 

Earlier this year, Mr. Meyer successfully won a lawsuit against Lakewood's Zoning Board for their refusal to permit neighbors on Spruce Street to postpone a hearing to give them time to hire an expert to properly present their objection to an application to permit additional houses on the block.

Mr. Meyer is also currently suing the Lakewood Township Planning Board over their approval of a dormitory for Yeshiva Toras Chaim on Ridge Avenue. The lawsuit charges that the Board heard the application on the theory that the dormitory was an “accessory use” to the school building which is a permitted use (but which has already been constructed), however, dormitories are not a permitted use in the Township's R-15 zone and therefore, construction of a standalone dormitory would require a use variance, which must be sought before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, not the Planning Board.

In addition, the lawsuit charges that the Board refused to grant the objector's a reasonable postponement so they could retain a licensed Planner and potentially other experts to provide testimony about the jurisdiction of the board and to testify as to the plans in its design.

All parties involved in this case have submitted Pre-trial memos, and Judge Ford has scheduled a trial Readiness Conference for this case on September 22nd.


join a FAA WhatsApp Group, click here: https://chat.whatsapp.com/GePyRrAaRYWJTZeYtUAoL7


To join the FAA WhatsApp Status, click here: https://wa.me/17328065488?text=%20Subscribe














No comments:

Post a Comment