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Not in my backyard – cell tower oppositions are becoming increasingly common across New Jersey

In recent years across the state of New Jersey, residents have attempted to persuade their municipal zoning, planning, and land use boards to block new cell towers and cell tower additions. Despite their best efforts, on appeals of these board decisions, New Jersey courts have tended to side with those proposing to create the structures.

In 2017, a Hunterdon County man attempted to challenge a decision made by his township land use board to approve the variances Verizon needed to construct 12 new antennas on top of an existing powerline pole. The trial judge dismissed the appeal and the appellate panel affirmed. In 2019, after over a decade-long opposition from community residents, a trial court judge ruled in favor of T-Mobile, allowing T-Mobile to construct a new cell tower. The opposition from the Freehold Township community began around 2007 and the planning board sided with the residents, denying multiple of T-Mobile’s applications before being thwarted by the court. In 2020, the courts reversed a zoning board decision from a Passaic County municipality, ordering the municipality to grant the variance necessary for AT&T to construct a new cell tower. While the zoning board initially denied the application for fears it would be too close to residents, the trial judge viewed the decision as arbitrary and capricious.

It should be noted that these court opinions are unpublished and therefore do not set precedent for future similar cases, but rather apply only to the individual situations respectively before the court. Nonetheless, these cases do show a pattern of wireless providers’ successes in building cell towers over community opposition. This is not to say all challenges to cell tower proposals are futile, as it is still important to be sure the application process is as thorough as possible and many residents have been successful in forcing the proponents of these projects to seek other locations, even if not blocking the construction of the tower entirely.

Sources:
Court sides with Verizon over Hunterdon County cellular antennas
Freehold Township issues permit for construction of cell tower
143-foot-tall tower going up after North Haledon loses legal battle against AT&T

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