Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Eagle - 10/31/2007

New Jersey, Union County Oppose Club Cell Tower

By Paul Greulich, Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

CRANFORD, NJ - Both Union County and a state department have joined the growing opposition to the construction of a proposed cell phone tower on the grounds of the Cranford Swim Club.

The move by the county comes after the State’s Historic Preservation Office had stated last week that the tower must be canceled or modified to mitigate its impact upon the adjacent Lenape Park and the Rahway River Park historic district.

Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski said the Freeholder Board fully supports this opinion, and is advocating against the construction of the cell tower.

“The park is eligible for landmark status and that means the state sets certain guidelines for what can be done near a park considered a historic place or on the register to be on the list of historic places,” Kowalski explained.

Residents have also shown mixed response to the application, which is currently before the zoning board for the height and setback variances needed to erecting the 130-foot pole in a residential area.

The application was addressed at an October 15 meeting of the Cranford zoning board, where the room was crowded with a mixture of residents from Cranford and Westfield.

“Certainly we’ve only had two other applications that brought out a full house so to speak,” Zoning Board Chair Robert Hellenbrecht said.

No one on the Swim Club Board could be reached for comment.

The pole would feature four separate antennae servicing companies that include Omnipoint, Sprint and Verizon. Revenue generated for the swim club by having the tower on their property has been estimated at exceeding $20,000.

Citizens’ concern has focused on aesthetics and location in relation to property lines and the adjoining park, but there has also been mention of health hazards associated with living near cell towers, a factor that remains a topic of concern despite not yet having been scientifically substantiated. There were also safety concerns surrounding a generator that may be included in the plan.

“They don’t want to see it, they don’t want to hear it and they don’t want it close enough to have a negative effect on their property value,” Hellenbrecht said of residents’ feelings about the tower.

Another consideration is the active bird watching community that frequents Lenape Park where some rare species have been sighted.

Previous cell tower projects in Cranford and other areas have involved towers that utilize existing tall structures, with the upper reaches of the antennae encased in false facades like cupola and chimneys, but Hellenbrecht said that such options appear less likely in this instance.

Kowalski said she feels cell towers are a necessary part of life, but finds the proposed location near the park unsuitable.

“I feel a real responsibility for protecting the parks and protecting the people who live near the parks,” Kowalski said. “I hope this can all be worked out and keep the park in its scenic condition.”

The cell tower application will be discussed again at the December 10 zoning board meeting. It is the only application scheduled for that evening, but Hellenbrecht said it is unclear if the matter will be voted on. In addition to the testimonies of the two witnesses, the floor will be open to the public to ask questions.

Paul Greulich can be reached at 908-686-7700 ext. 121, or at