Friday, January 25, 2008

Rahway River Association - Letter to the Editor 1/25/2008

Cranford Chronicle
Letter to the Editor

Friday, January 25, 2008

Town Should Help Find Solution for Tower Trouble

To The Chronicle:

With a mission of preserving open space, protecting natural resources and improving water quality in the Rahway River watershed, the Rahway River Association is concerned about the proposed 130-foot cell tower being considered for the Township of Cranford.

Located in a residential area adjacent to the county-owned Lenape Park, the proposed tower raises a multitude of concerns that elevates the issue beyond the typical not-in-my-backyard attitude. For the Cranford Township Board of Adjustment, the application may turn on the positive and negative criteria that provide guidance for the individual board members to render a decision. As they consider the application, the board members have an obligation to recognize other mandates and laws that govern their decision-making process.

Of paramount importance is the implication that the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, the state agency mandated to protect the integrity of state and federal historic sites and landscapes, has a direct regulatory role in protecting the Olmsted landscape of Lenape Park from "adverse impacts." Specifically, how will the tower mar the viewshed of Lenape Park from a variety of line of sight perspectives? Does the proposed tower pose a threat to nocturnal migratory songbirds, which are attracted to the high elevated light sources? Inevitably, these attractions result in their collision with the structure itself, which is invariably fatal. Be advised that the Federal Communications Commission conferred upon the state Historic Preservation Office the legal mandate to regulate towers if they impacted historic and cultural resources. SHIPO's declaration of "adverse impacts" cannot be ignored by the Cranford Township Board of Adjustment.

Locating a cell tower on the land of a private swim club surrounded by a residential community is not only incongruent but should have been foreseen as highly unpopular. Such insensitivity is inconsistent with the progressive values of Cranford residents that cherish the Rahway River, fill their parks and are justifiably proud of their community. Efforts to erect a cell tower amid the Cranford Swimming Club grounds suggest that either the facility is suffering some fiscal challenge or is in dire need of some capital improvement. Either way, the Township of Cranford should weigh in with a potential solution.

If money is the primary issue for the Cranford Swimming Club, then the township should negotiate with the organization to sell their development rights immediately to the municipality or Union County. Subject to appraisal, the Cranford Swimming Club could get an infusion of several hundred thousands of public dollars for their land while the township gets an easement prohibiting them from any development in the future. The funds can be used by the swim club for whatever their needs are. As a condition of the transaction, the club can open its membership to the public for a fee, while the land is protected for the benefit of all.

Executive Director
Rahway River Association