Friday, October 12, 2007

The Star Ledger 10/12/2007

Cranford Gears Up For Cell Tower Fight

Proposal For Swim Club Site Goes Before Zoning Board

Friday, October 12, 2007
Star-Ledger Staff

Concerned about the impact on property values and neighborhood aesthetics, a number of Cranford residents say they plan to attend Monday's zoning board meeting to voice their objections to the proposed construction of a cell phone tower at the Cranford Swimming Club.

Meanwhile, the privately owned club's board of governors is urging its members to turn out for the 8:15 p.m. session in the municipal building to show their support for the proposal, which they believe will generate sufficient funds to make needed improvements to the pool.

In an e-mail sent to club members and obtained by The Star-Ledger, the club's board of governors said it was "imperative to have as many pool members attend the hearing to speak out in favor of the tower to offset any resident complaints."

Verizon, Cingular, Sprint and T-Mobile have filed a joint application with the township's zoning board of adjustment for approval to build a wireless communications facility at the swim club on County Park Drive, according to the e-mail.

The installation would consist of a 130-foot monopole with an equipment compound located at the base of the pole.

The joint application seeks a use variance, a height variance to allow the tower to be 130 feet tall, and setback variances for the tower to be located within a residential zone. The application also seeks preliminary and final site plan approval.

Genevieve "Jenny" Schuvart, who lives on Manitou Circle in neighboring Westfield, is among the area residents opposed to the tower. Her yard abuts the pool property.

She said she and her husband received a certified letter Saturday about the proposal and the upcoming hearing.

"I almost had a heart attack," said Schuvart, who is in her 70s and who has lived in Cranford since 1965. She was also a member of the swim club until her children grew older and moved away.

"What quality of life would you have with that thing towering over you, and who would buy our home with that in our backyard?" Schuvart said. "I cannot even understand why they would allow a 130-foot structure in this neighborhood. It's a residential area."

"We moved into this area because we appreciate nature. We are all decent people, and to have this visited upon us is just unfair," she said.

Township Commissioner George McDonough said the cell tower could mean a sizable amount of revenue for the swim club.

"They could receive something like $25,000 per carrier using the tower, so it's worthwhile for them (the club) to have it," he said.

Several telephone calls to members of the swim club board were not immediately returned.

McDonough said building the tower in a residential area is not the ideal location and suggested using a site farther back in nearby Lenape Park.

"I think what is paramount is the opinion of the people who live in the neighborhood," he said.

A similar proposal was just shot down in Scotch Plains, where the local zoning board of adjustment voted 6-0 Oct. 4 to deny Omnipoint Communications' request to build a 120-foot cell phone tower, a 6-foot fence and other equipment on the privately owned property of the Willow Grove Swim Club, adjacent to Kramer Manor Park on Evelyn Street.

The problem in that community was that the proposed tower was too close to protected wetlands.

Robert E. Misseck covers Union County. He can be reached at or (908) 302-1507.