T-Mobile has filed a lawsuit 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 Company 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.”
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 board failed to properly evaluate or weigh the positive and negative criteria related to T-Mobile’s application consistent with New Jersey law and explain how, on balance, grant of the variance would cause a substantial detriment to the public good,” the lawsuit said.
According to township administrator James Naples, the suit was filed last week, and the zoning board as a whole is the only entity named as defendant in the lawsuit.
“The grounds of the suit are they are saying the action [of the zoning board] rises out of an unlawful denial of the application,” he said. “[It says] it prohibits T-Mobile from providing personal wireless service.”
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.
Greg Meese, who handled the application for T-Mobile, is representing the company in the lawsuit against the zoning board.
The lawsuit, Naples said, was filed in federal court, which will handle the case.
“The case could generally take months,” he said.