Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Local Source: Cranford News 1/30/2008

Cell Tower Decision Still a Few Months Away

By Paul Greulich
January 30, 2008

CRANFORD, NJ - Hours of witness testimony and cross-examination by attorneys on both sides of the controversial cell tower application left the issue unresolved Monday night.

The applicant, Verizon, is seeking height and setback variances needed to place the 130-foot pole on the grounds of the Cranford Swimming Club in a residential area.

The meeting ended at 11 p.m., at which point Zoning Board members stated there was no room in the schedule to continue the hearing until March 10.

Attorney John H. Schmidt Jr., who represents some 40-50 residents in the area of the proposed tower, said he expects there will be at least two more meetings before a vote is taken.

Much of Monday’s meeting was spent on Schmidt’s questioning of Glenn Pierson, one of the applicant’s witnesses and a principal of the PierCon Solutions of Lincoln Park, which provides engineering services for the applicant.

Discussion centered on whether there are any gaps in the area’s cellular coverage.

“I like to think I was able to establish that there was no present gap in coverage,” Schmidt said. “If I did that, the application should fail because one of their requirements is to show a gap in coverage.”

Verizon attorney Gregory Meese could not be reached for comment by press time.

At previous meetings, residents have complained that the applicant has presented data in a misleading way. Westfield resident Jack Schuvart said he thought things went well on Monday in the efforts to clear up some of the information that was before the board.
“Most of were rather pleased with the performance of the council we’d hired to handle it,” Schuvart said.

Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski was also present. Kowalski has been the voice of the county’s opposition to the project because of its proximity to Lenape Park.

Since the proposal appeared, opposition has arisen from the State Historic Preservation Office, which has stated that the tower must be canceled or modified to mitigate its impact upon the adjacent Lenape Park and the Rahway River Park historic district.

The pole would feature four separate antennae servicing companies that include Omnipoint, Sprint and Verizon. Revenue generated for the swim club by having the tower on their property has been estimated at exceeding $20,000.

Area residents’ concern has focused on aesthetics and location in relation to property lines and the adjoining park, but there has also been mention of health hazards associated with living near cell towers, a factor that remains a topic of concern despite not yet having been scientifically substantiated.

“Personally I thought this was more interesting than CSI,” said Cranford resident Edward O’Malley.

O’Malley said that subjects that stir up a lot of emotion tend to take longer to resolve.

“The issue is getting a thorough vetting by the process here, and that’s rather gratifying,” he added.

Paul Greulich can be reached at 908-686-7700 ext. 121, or at