The Lakewood Zoning Board is set tonight, Monday, to consider an application from Verizon for a new cell tower at 1364 River Avenue, in back of the Taubers store building.

This new tower will replace the tower installed behind Finnigans Lanes on Locust Street in June 2021, which is to be removed.

The proposed wireless communications facility will consist of a 140-foot monopole extending to
145 feet, inclusive of a lightning rod. In addition to accommodating a wireless communications antennas of Verizon Wireless, the tower will be further designed to accommodate two additional wireless communications carriers.

The facility will be located in an approximate 40-foot by 40-foot compound that, in addition to the tower, will contain the radio equipment and propane tank associated with the proposed generator.

The tower will either maintain a galvanized steel finish or be painted a neutral color so as to reduce
visual obtrusiveness. The design of the structure shall use materials, colors, textures, screening, and landscaping that will blend them into the natural setting and surrounding buildings.

The site is located in the HD-7 Zone where cell phone towers are not a permitted use, therefore this proposal requires a Use Variance from the Zoning Board.

Additionally, the application seeks a height variance as the maximum building height of the HD-7 Zone is 65 feet, whereas the proposed height of the tower is +143 feet measured to the top of the proposed antennas.

The application also seeks a variance from the Ordinance which requires a 1,500 foot distance from residential dwelling units or lands zoned for residential use, whereas the distance to the nearest residential dwelling unit is 760 feet; as well as a rear yard setback variance of 25-feet whereas 50 feet is required; and a side yard setback of 21.2 feet whereas 30 feet is required (it is noted that the warehouse, on the adjacent side, maintains an 11.25-foot side yard setback).

Residents who wish to oppose this application are urged to bring an attorney to the public hearing, especially as previously reported here on FAA News, Judge Hodgson has already ruled that federal law preempts health and environmental concerns from being used to object to cell tower applications.

The New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law (NJSA 40:55D-70d) provides that a Use Variance may only be granted "in particular cases for special reasons," and with "a showing that such variance or other relief can be granted without substantial detriment to the public good and will not substantially impair the intent and the purpose of the zone plan and zoning ordinance."

For a typical non-inherently beneficial use, pursuant to a 1987 New Jersey Supreme Court case known as Medici v. BPR Co., "special reasons" are established by a very strict level of testimony that the proposed use promotes the general welfare because the property in question is particularly suited for the proposed use.

However, pursuant to Smart SMR v Borough of Fair Lawn, by virtue of holding a license from the FCC, the use of a cell tower as a matter of law, has been held to serve the general welfare. Therefore, the only positive criteria which will need to be met is to demonstrate that the proposed use serves the general welfare because the site is particularly suitable for the proposed use (for which, Verizon's experts will most certainly testify that the site is particularly suitable for the proposed use based in material part on the fact that the site is critically necessary in order to provide continued reliable wireless communications coverage to this portion of Lakewood Township).

At the March 2021 public hearing for the cell tower behind Finnigans Lanes, Verizon representatives testified to the Zoning Board that their current towers around Lakewood have been extremely overwhelmed with increased voice and internet usage since the onset of the pandemic, and with the new tower, in addition to planned upgrades to their existing tower in the John Patrick park on Vine Street, they anticipate addressing most of the capacity issues in the southern section of Lakewood.

David Stern, Vice President of RF Engineering at V‑COMM, testified to the board that prior to COVID, Lakewood's towers were hit with approximately 10 million minutes of use of voice calls each day, and that during COVID, this number dramatically increased to 17 million minutes of use. Most of their service areas see increases of 20-40% each year. Lakewood's Verizon towers have seen a 70% increase in use. Additionally, Verizon has seen a 40% increase in data usage this year. Even now that schools have reopened, phone and data usage is much higher than pre-COVID. Most of this usage is on wireless devices and not on wired devices. This increases use of the wireless towers.

Verizon's experts will likely present similar testimony regarding this application as well.

Pursuant to SMART, the applicant will also need to demonstrate satisfaction of the negative criteria under the same criteria applicable to inherently beneficial uses, which were established in the 1992 Supreme Court case known as Sica v. Bd. of Adjustment of Tp. of Wall.

In March 2021, Verizon told the Zoning board they anticipate keeping the Finnigans Lanes tower operational for up to eighteen months as they are in the process of acquiring a location in this general area for a more permanent tower. That tower was installed in June 2021.

As the subject property (of 1364 River Avenue) has recently been approved for the construction of a warehouse and related infrastructure, certain coordination is  required to coordinate the installation of the wireless communications facility with the approved warehouse plans. Therefore, to the extent required, Verizon is also seeking an extension of time for the continued temporary facility, until such time as the new application is adjudicated.

This tower is a long way in the planning process. As previously reported here on FAA News back in May 2022, as this location is apparently adjacent to some "historic properties" the project developers were required to first allow public comments regarding potential effects from this site on historic properties.

As previously reported here on FAA News, back in February 2023, Verizon signed a long-term lease agreement with Moshe Newhouse of 1364 River Avenue LLC for installation of this new cell tower. The lease is for a period of 5 years with automatic 4 additional 5 year extension terms.

Verizon already received Ocean County Planning Board approval for the tower.

The Zoning Board was originally scheduled to consider this application on Monday, June 12. The application was adjourned to tonight's hearing as that meeting already had a packed agenda.

To join a FAA News WhatsApp Group, click here.

To join the FAA News WhatsApp Status, click here.

No comments: