Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cranford Chronicle 1/25/2008

Hellenbrecht Re-Appointed to Zoning Board

Friday, January 25, 2008

CRANFORD - The Township Committee settled on its annual appointments to the Zoning Board of Adjustment at a special meeting Wednesday night, just days before the board convenes to continue hearing a controversial application for a cell phone tower.

In something of a twist, one of the "new" members was the board chairman last year, who had at first been passed over for re-appointment.

At the New Year's Day re-organization meeting, the committee appointed Richard Brightman to a four-year term on the board, while Jerry DeNigris was appointed to the position of second alternate. Their appointments meant that Robert Hellenbrecht, who was chairman of the board in 2007 and whose term expired at the end of the year, would not be returning.

But during a special meeting on Wednesday, the committee accepted resignations from both DeNigris and Brightman, then turned around and appointed Hellenbrecht to the four-year term. To fill the second alternate position, the committee appointed Brightman. Neither Brightman nor DeNigris served on the board in 2007.

Hellenbrecht could not be reached for comment about his appointment. But in early January, when it appeared he would not be returning to the board, Hellenbrecht said he had told the Township Committee in late 2007 that he was interested in serving again. He said he received a second call confirming his interest; that was followed by a third call offering him the non-voting post of second alternate, which he declined.

Mayor Bob Puhak said despite not initially offering him a voting spot on the board, the committee had been satisfied with Hellenbrecht's service. Puhak declined to discuss the reasons for the initial decision, or the change of heart.

In related news, Puhak said Township Attorney Carl Woodward is drafting a memo regarding the committee's role in hiring the attorneys for both the Board of Adjustment and the Planning Board; that topic will be discussed at a later meeting. Starting last year, Cranford moved toward hiring municipal attorneys as independent contractors, instead of employees with pension and medical benefits.

The Board of Adjustment will meet for the first time this year on Monday, Jan. 28. During that meeting, the board will elect a chairman and continue hearing an application from a cooperative of four cellular carriers to build a 130-foot monopole and a 2,760-square foot equipment compound at the edge of the Cranford Swimming Club's County Park Drive property, along the border between Cranford and Westfield.

Verizon Wireless, Sprint Mobile, AT&T and Omnipoint, a branch of T-Mobile, say they need the tower to fill a gap in coverage. However, residents in both towns have expressed concern about the impact the pole would have on health, aesthetics and property values, and have retained an attorney to represent them in the case.