After four years of legal skirmish over the siting of a cell tower in Lakewood, NY, a U.S. federal judge granted a motion for the construction of a 180-foot cell tower on the Lakewood Fireman’s Grounds. Up State Tower Construction Co. LLC, a full-service wireless construction company headquartered in Buffalo, NY, filed its initial tower application in 2015, but faced approval challenges in 2016, due to local village laws intended to ensure cell towers are limited to parcels with minimal impact on the community.
A 2019 article by the Post-Journal reported the sequence of legal filings and motions surrounding Up State’s tower proposal. Lakewood Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied Up State Tower approval for a variance in 2017, stating the tower ‘was not warranted.’ The ZBA also cited negative aesthetic impact on surrounding recreational and nature lands. Up State Tower then filed a 2018 motion to appeal.
The Post-Journal reported on Wednesday that “Federal District Judge William K. Sessions III granted Upstate Tower’s motion to appeal.” The village is allowed 30 days to file an appeal; otherwise they will be required to issue the variance and/or special use permit within 45 days, allowing installation of the tower.
It’s not clear yet whether the village will file an appeal. According to a 2017 Post-Journal op-ed written by Lakewood Village Board Trustees, Randy Holcomb and Ellen Barnes, the addition of the tower would be financially beneficial to the community. Holcomb and Barnes noted that rent paid to the Lakewood Fire Company would “go a long way to assist in funding future fire equipment.” Holcomb and Barnes also concluded that even though the cell tower would be located on fire department tax exempt property, the cell tower is taxable and would increase the overall taxable assessment of the Village of Lakewood, which would reduce the village tax rate.
Holcomb is now the mayor of Lakewood, with Barnes as a trustee and deputy mayor.
The next Lakewood Village Board meeting will be held January 27, during which time the summary judgement and plans for construction will likely be discussed.