Verizon sues Freehold Township over cell tower rejection

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By Christine Barcia

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – Verizon Wireless has filed a lawsuit against the Freehold Township Zoning Board of Adjustment.

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The case of New York SMSA Limited Partnership (Verizon Wireless) against the zoning board was filed on Dec. 28 in state Superior Court, Freehold.

The lawsuit claims the zoning board’s Dec. 10 denial of a use variance that Verizon Wireless sought in order to build a cellular communications tower at 391 Monmouth Road (Route 537) was arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and without legal or factual basis.

Specifically, Verizon Wireless claims the zoning board ignored expert testimony presented by Verizon Wireless in support of the application; created findings and conclusions that were not based upon the competent, credible evidence; ignored findings and conclusions compelled by competent, credible evidence presented in support of the application; and misinterpreted and misapplied the legal standards applicable to the application.

Verizon Wireless is seeking to have the zoning board’s decision reversed.

At the same time it has filed the lawsuit regarding 391 Monmouth Road, representatives of Verizon Wireless are expected to appear before the Freehold Township Planning Board in February to seek a use variance for property at 363 Monmouth Road so the company may construct a cell tower on that parcel.

On Jan. 1 the zoning board merged with the Planning Board and that panel is  now hearing applicants’ requests for variances.

Verizon Wireless, which is the lessee of a portion of the property at 391 Monmouth Road, Freehold Township, identified the site as one that would meet its technical requirements in filling a coverage gap in its wireless network, as is required pursuant to its Federal Communications Commission license, according to the lawsuit.

Verizon Wireless filed an application on Oct. 10, 2014, for a use variance and final site plan approval with the zoning board in connection with the location of a monopole and accessory equipment at the site.

The zoning board held four public hearings on the application during 2015.

Expert witnesses testified during the hearings. One expert testified that Verizon Wireless is designing a 4G network for all devices and that the design goal is to provide adequate services to all devices in all areas, according to the lawsuit. The expert said the proposed cell tower would address gaps in the network coverage on Route 537 and Francis Mill Road in Freehold Township; on Paint Island Spring Road, Stillhouse Road and several other streets in neighboring Millstone Township; and offload traffic from surrounding sites.

The proposed facility would consist of a fenced compound (50 feet by 50 feet) with a 120-foot-tall monopole (extendable to 140 feet); a lightning rod (at 128 feet); a 312-square-foot equipment shelter with an interior diesel emergency generator and associated equipment.

Mark Tinder, a real estate appraiser, said his examination of the area determined there was no reasonable potential value impact on residential properties associated with the proposed facility.

In the end, zoning board members denied the non-permitted use in the R-80 residential zone at 391 Monmouth Road.

Attorney Dennis Galvin represents the zoning board and attorney Lynne Dunn represents Verizon Wireless. Both attorneys declined comment on the lawsuit.

 

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