Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Westfield Leader 1/31/2008

Cranford Cell Tower Fight Continues; 484 Sign Petition


CRANFORD — The fight over erecting a cell-phone tower at the Cranford Swim Club continued before a packed house at Monday evening’s meeting of the Cranford zoning board of adjustment.

So far, 484 Westfield and Cranford residents have signed a petition against the proposal, Cranford resident Audrey Muratore told The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times.

Another 90 people have hired attorney John Schmidt to defend their opposition to the monopole. Gregory Meese, an attorney representing New York SMSA Limited Partnership, clarified the setback variance to the board. He said the setback of the base of the 130-foot-high tower to the nearest residential-property line would be 39 feet. The front-setback requirement is 300 feet or three times the height of the tower, whichever is greater, resulting in a 390-foot frontsetback requirement to a residential property line, Mr. Meese said. The monopole’s proposed site is in a residential zone.

Cranford resident Frank Krause asked Glenn Pierson of PierCon Solutions, a radiofrequency design and engineering consultant testifying on behalf of the applicant, if the pole were to move about 300 feet from its current proposed spot, would it change the effects of cell-phone coverage.

“There is no major difference from a radiofrequency perspective,” Mr. Pierson replied. Mr. Krause suggested that the applicant should consider moving the pole near the pool at the Cranford Swim Club instead of near residential property lines. He said this change would also meet setback requirements.

Marjorie Meise of Cranford also queried Mr. Pierson. She asked if a satellite would be a suitable source of service for cell phones. “[A] satellite signal doesn’t get into a building. It is for outdoor or remote locations,” Mr. Pierson said.

Mr. Pierson also testified about cellphone-connectivity lapses. “It’s not
something you can do with digital or analog. It’s the radio-wave limitations,” he said.

Mr. Pierson presented the board with a graph showing data points of cellular traffic on traditional 800-MHz frequencies from 2006 to 2010. He said, beginning in 2010, a significant amount of blockage would occur on peak days, such as July 4 and during snowstorms or constructions, when cell phones are used more frequently.

Data services, such as text messages, would also block voice coverage, Mr. Pierson said. “We need to build out frequencies,” he said. “Come 2010, 800 mhz will be blocked.” He said 1,900-MHz frequency is being used today as a backup when 800 MHz is busy.

Mr. Pierson said the higher the frequency, the shorter the usable range. So, a 1,900-MHz frequency would cover less of an area than one of 800 MHz, resulting in the need for more towers. He also said that of the four cell-phone-carrier providers that would have cell coverage on the monopole, two operate on 800 MHz. Mr. Pierson also said, in his opinion, that if this tower application were approved, the applicant would require a second tower in Cranford to gain seamless coverage.

However, so far, the coverage maps supplied by the cell carriers shown in the subsequent meetings do not depict coverage of 800-MHz frequencies, as confirmed by Mr. Pierson.

The hearing will continue on Monday, March 10. Mr. Meese is expected to present one or two of his witnesses.

Mr. Schmidt will have his chance to present witnesses at a later date.