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The Lakewood Zoning Board on Monday night unanimously approved 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.

Back in March 2021, Verizon representatives testified to the Zoning Board that their current towers in Lakewood have been extremely overwhelmed with increased voice and internet usage since the onset of the pandemic, and even once schools reopened, phone and data usage remained much higher than pre-COVID.

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.

Most of this usage is on wireless devices and not on wired devices. This increases use of the wireless towers, Mr. Stern added.

With installation of the new tower, in addition to 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.

To address these capacity concerns, Verizon requested temporary approval from the Zoning Board to install a tower behind Finnigans Lanes. At the time, they told the Zoning board they anticipate keeping the Finnigans Lanes tower operational only for up to eighteen months as they did not secure a long term lease to keep the tower at that location any longer.

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

Verizon now returned to the Board for approval to relocate their tower to this new, long term location.

Morristown Attorney Richard Schneider representing Attorney emphasized to the Board that, as previously reported here on FAA News, Ocean County Superior Court Assignment Judge Francis Hodgson has already ruled that federal law preempts health and environmental concerns from being used to object to cell tower applications.

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

Additionally, the application required 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 required 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 755 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).

Chairman Halberstam noted that the application also required a variance from being set back a distance equal to at least 100% of the height of the tower from any adjoining lot line.

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 also requested an
extension of time for the continued temporary facility, until such time as the new application is adjudicated.

Board Member Moshe Ingber asked if the tower could be camaflaged due to aesthetics. Mr. Stern pushed back, saying that "once it's installed, no one will pay any attention to it."

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.

Verizon recently received Ocean County Planning Board approval for installation of this tower.

Unlike public hearings for cell tower applications in other parts of the Township which have been very contentious, this application did not face any opposition.

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