23 Aug 2014
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T-Mobile Cell Tower Suit Draws Township Response

Denial of the cell tower was not arbitrary, Bridgewater response says.

T-Mobile Cell Tower Suit Draws Township Response

The township zoning board has responded to a lawsuit filed by T-Mobile, saying that its denial of a 130-foot cell tower was not unjust.

The zoning board, under the direction of attorney Lawrence Vastola, filed its response to the lawsuit Oct. 26 in Trenton.

T-Mobile filed a lawsuit in October against the Bridgewater Township Zoning Board of Adjustment over the denial of an application to build a 130-foot cell tower at the Green Knoll Volunteer Fire Co. on North Bridge Street.

According to the lawsuit, as filed with federal court, the board’s denial of T-Mobile’s application violates the federal Communications Act and is “arbitrary, capricious and unlawful under New Jersey law.”

In the response from the township, attorney Vastola states that although the defendant admits the application was filed, it denies all the charges filed against the zoning board.

“...[I]t denies that its decision effectively prohibits Plaintiff from providing personal service, is supported by substantial evidence and is arbitrary, capricious and unlawful under New Jersey law,” the response states.

In addition, the response states that it denies allegations that rejecting the tower application violates the Federal Communities Act, or is arbitrary, capricious and unlawful under the law.

T-Mobile is seeking an injunction from the court to require the zoning board to approve the application for the tower at the proposed location.

The zoning board denied the application in May after almost two years of hearings. The application was for a 130-foot cell tower at the firehouse with a 6-foot high fence surrounding it and three equipment cabinets within that fence.

During hearings for the tower, the applicant said the tower would cover a gap in coverage in the area of the firehouse, but that it would not cover all the gaps, and another tower might be necessary in the future.

Residents expressed concerns about the tower, saying it would change the character of the residential neighborhood surrounding the fire house, and that other options should be considered to handle the gap in coverage like the distributed antenna systems.

According to the resolution approved concerning the denial of the application, the board determined that the application failed to satisfy the negative criteria of building the tower, and decided that the public interest would not be served through the proposed tower. The board also found that the height of the tower would have a detrimental impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

“The board finds that it cannot ignore the impact which the height of this tower will have, as the applicant suggests,” the resolution said. “The board concludes that the proposed tower will have a detrimental effect on the surrounding residences as well as on the street scape.”

The board also determined, from the testimony of witnesses, that the tower would have an adverse impact on property values, the resolution said.

In the response from the board concerning the lawsuit, they deny that the proposal for a cell tower was the least intrusive way of remedying the gap in coverage, as well as T-Mobile’s statement that the proposed facility would allow the company to repair a gap in coverage.

The response also denies allegations by T-Mobile that, in their testimony, they demonstrated why alternative locations for the tower would not be beneficial and that the variance for the tower would not be detrimental to the township.

Finally, the response also states that the zoning board denies the allegations by T-Mobile that they satisfied the criteria for building the facility, among other similar allegations.

“The action of defendant in considering the plaintiff’s application was in all respects proper and just, was not arbitrary, capricious or unjust and its decision was supported by substantial evidence,” the response said.

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