Verizon will return to a hearing before Lavallette’s planning board on Wednesday, continuing a hearing that began in September over the potential installation of six new “small cell” mobile antenna arrays that will be placed on utility poles in the borough.
The hours-long meeting in September failed to yield a recommendation from the planning board on the antennas, with board members peppering the wireless provider’s professional staff with questions over issues ranging from aesthetics, to Verizon’s street-level wireless network, to how frequencies in the data spectrum differ from other providers, making the small cell nodes necessary. The board also found that one of the proposed nodes carried an incorrect address, making it seem as if the node would be located near the borough’s baseball field rather than a residential home across the street.
Lavallette’s battle with Verizon is one of several ongoing in New Jersey, as the company battles local planning boards and city councils complaining about the aesthetics of the equipment. In Lavallette, the borough council passed an ordinance requiring permits for wireless providers to place nodes on utility poles – whether the poles are owned by the borough or another utility company. As part of the ordinance, a wireless provider appears before the planning board, which hears testimony under oath before making a formal recommendation to the council. The council can choose to issue the permit or deny it, though federal policies provide only limited regulatory powers to municipal governments, as the Federal Communications Commission considers wireless bandwidth part of the national infrastructure.
Verizon has previous threatened to sue Lavallette over the matter, prompting the council to grudgingly approve a previous set of nodes. In Belmar, Monmouth County, the borough has retained legal council and is preparing to battle Verizon over a plan to install about 20 nodes along the town’s boardwalk. Likewise, the Belmar battle centers on the aesthetics of the nodes in close proximity to the beach.
In Lavallette, the nodes are proposed for six locations, the proposals of which have been updated since the September meeting. The locations are:
- 72 Oceanfront (revised)
- 2 President (revised)
- 122 Newark Ave. (new plan)
- 100 Oceanfront (revised)
- 110 White Ave. (revised
- 506 Oceanfront (revised)
The September meeting ended with Verizon representatives pledging to return in response to requests from board members and professionals. The board’s planner and engineer, as well as board members themselves, requested renderings and simulated photographs of how, exactly, the newest node models would appear on utility poles. They also requested a revision of the location of an Elizabeth Avenue site that was the subject of the address error.
The board also requested clarification on what color schemes could be applied to the cowlings that cover the antennas’ internal equipment.
The meeting begins at 5 p.m. – an hour earlier than the usual 6 p.m. start of planning board meetings – in order to accommodate the Verizon hearing before regular cases are heard. After the Verizon presentation, the board will consider a much simpler application – a Bryn Mawr Avenue resident requesting variance relief required to lift their home and reconstruct a front porch and backyard deck.