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Verizon wants large cell tower on Lower Makefield synagogue land


Verizon Wireless is changing locations but staying on the same road in its attempt to put a large cell phone tower in Lower Makefield.

The company has withdrawn its application to locate the structure at the Brookside Swim and Tennis Club at 499 Stony Hill Road. Instead, Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless is now applying for variances from the township’s zoning hearing board to allow the tower on the property of the Congregation Beth El synagogue at 375 Stony Hill Road, roughly a mile away.

At their March 15 meeting, the supervisors agreed to defer the matter to the zoning hearing board and not send a township attorney to the ZHB meeting to either oppose the tower or just participate in the hearing. The zoning board is tentatively scheduled to consider the application at its April 4 meeting.

A motion to participate by Supervisor Daniel Grenier died for lack of a second.

“This would be only a couple hundred feet from houses,” he said. “I want to make sure we are holding them accountable and not just letting them force us to do anything.”

The applicant is asking for a variance to allow the proposed telecommunications facility within the R-3M zoning district where it would not normally be permitted. According to information on the agenda of the supervisors meeting, the facility would consist of a monopole antenna support structure, designed to resemble a pine tree, 150 feet high and the attachment of up to 12 panel antennas. The tower would be located within a 50-by-50-foot fenced compound. A lightning rod and artificial branches to conceal the structure would extend to an overall height of 155 feet.

Verizon Wireless is also seeking, as an alternative, a validity variance pursuant to the Federal Telecommunication Act of 1996. It states that “No state or local statute or regulation, or state or local legal requirement, may prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the ability of an entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service.”

Township resident Neil Flax, who lives near the synagogue, urged township officials at the March 15 meeting to approve the tower, saying that area along Stony Hill Road is a “dead zone” with very poor cell phone reception.

In another action from the meeting, the supervisors approved a contract with Seward Johnson Atelier to place a total of eight sculptures at two township parks and the township-owned Patterson Farm as part of the Art in the Park program. The parks are Community Park on Edgewood Road and Memorial Park on Woodside Road.

Lower Makefield Parks and Recreation Director Monica Tierney said the contract is being covered with $5,000 in township funds, $2,500 from the nonprofit Artists of Yardley, headquartered at the Patterson Farm, and $7,500 from a Visit Bucks County grant to AOY funneled to the township.

“This is wonderful,” Supervisor Suzanne Blundi said. “I’m really excited about this.”

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