Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Residents Speak Out! 11/27/2007

Several residents of both Cranford and Westfield were present at the Cranford Township Committee meeting this evening which was televised live on Cranford's local television station, TV35.

Among comments made to the Cranford Township Committee:

Joseph Muratore, 106 Kenilworth Boulevard, spoke in opposition to the cell antenna tower that is being proposed at the Cranford Swim Club. Discussed a law that prohibits the placement of such towers within 390 feet of the nearest residential property. Expressed concern regarding the potential impact this could have on property values. Explained that residents have hired an attorney to assist them with this issue. Feels the Township Committee should designate specific areas within the Township, such as industrial areas, for these types of towers. Also urged members of the Swim Club to voice opposition to proposal.

Deputy Mayor Puhak reminded residents that the Township Committee is prohibited from commenting on issues that are currently before the Board of Adjustment.

Township Attorney Woodward discussed the need for residents to speak before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, explaining that that is where their voices would be most effective. Discussed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations and the local land use law in connection with the construction of cell phone antennas. Explained that any owner of private property can request a variance from the Board of Adjustments at any time. Discussed the quasi-judicial made up of the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the application process that must be followed.

Commissioner McDonough stated that he has consulted legal counsel on this matter who advised him that he could provide comment on the issue. Stated that he agrees with the residents and is looking forward to joining forces with them next year.

Jack Schuvart, 40 Manitou Circle, Westfield, questioned why it is the responsibility of residents to hire an attorney to protect them from existing laws. Feels that the applicant is requesting that three (3) to four (4) existing laws be changed or altered to support its application.

Commissioner McDonough explained that the applicant is not requesting that laws be changed, but is seeking variances from the existing land development ordinance. Discussed the variance process. Reminded residents that the Township Committee appoints the members of the Board of Adjustment.

Mr. Schuvart discussed financial and emotional stress residents are facing because of this application.

Donald Graham, 30 Nomahegan Court, feels it is unfair that the proceeds from the cell antenna would be paid to a private club. Feels the proceeds should benefit the Township.

Commissioner McDonough discussed a previous proposal to place a cell tower on the property located behind the municipal building. Stated that residents living on Forest Avenue were opposed to this proposal and voiced their opinions, which resulted in the Township Committee’s decision to reject the proposal.

Genny Schuvart, 40 Manitou Circle, Westfield, stated that other municipalities have formed committees to investigate which locations within a municipality would be appropriate for these types of structures. Feels Cranford should form such a committee. Questioned the validity of zoning ordinances if they are not enforced to protect residents.

Myron Borden, 3 Nomahegan Court, feels the matter should be investigated by the Township Committee to prevent this from happening in other neighborhoods. Discussed the process involved with obtaining a variance. Feels the ten (10) day time frame in which applicants have to notify residents is insufficient. Feels thirty (30) days notice should be required. Suggested the Township Committee adopt an ordinance to change the noticing requirements.

Township Attorney Woodward agrees that ten (10) days notice is insufficient when receiving notice of an application for a variance. Explained that under the State Municipal Land Use Law, ten (10) days is considered adequate notice and Cranford cannot override a State law. Encouraged residents to contact legislatures and request a change to the noticing requirements.

Alvin Rotker, 64 Manitou Circle, Westfield, explained that the applicant is proposing the installation of a 130-foot cell tower fourteen (14) feet from a residential neighborhood. Feels the Township should be aware of the adverse reaction of residents to this application.

Audrey Muratore, 106 Kenilworth Boulevard, discussed the first submission of the cell antenna tower application in 2005 by the Cranford Swim Club. Feels it is unfair that the residents were given ten (10) days notice when this has been occurring for two (2) years. Stated that there are ninety-two (92) cell tower structures located within six (6) miles of the Cranford Swim Club. Expressed concern regarding the affects the structure will have on property values. Feels this issue is a conflict of interest for Mayor Plick and Commissioner Robinson, as they both members of the Cranford Swim Club. Provided a website address for residents to sign a petition in opposition to this matter.

Commissioner Robinson agrees that there is a conflict. Stated that he was unaware of the application until it was presented to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Rita LaBrutto, 104 Arlington Road, discussed the County report in connection with the cell antenna application. Stated that the Zoning Office does not have a copy of the report and she had filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request with Union County for a copy. Feels the County should provide the Zoning Board of Adjustment with a copy of the report.

Commissioner McDonough believes that the County report that Ms. LaBrutto is referring to could be obtained from either the County Engineering Department or the County Planning Department. Stated that Freeholder B.J. Kowalski has expressed opposition to the application and mentioned the reasons why.

Carlos Collazo, 68 Manitou Circle, Westfield, discussed the permitted use of the Swim Club’s property. Feels the installation of a cell tower would not be beneficial to the public or in the best interest of the publics’ welfare. Questioned why the property owner of the Swim Club has not sought other uses for the property.

Michael Shuvart, 40 Manitou Circle, Westfield, discussed the Cranford Environmental Commission’s report in connection with the proposed cell tower. Stated that the Environmental Commission’s report indicated opposition to the proposal.

Thank you to all who were present and made their voices heard!

Continue the fight Cranford!