At Hearing, Lawyers Spar Over Alternate Tower Site
Friday, March 14, 2008
By LESLIE MURRAY
CRANFORD - The contentious hearing on an application to construct a cell phone tower at the Cranford Swimming Club (CSC) continued this week, as a site acquisition expert for a consortium of wireless phone companies testified about the lack of potential sites in the surrounding area. But the Board of Adjustment did not make a decision, and another meeting has been scheduled for May.
About 50 people attended Monday's hearing, the fourth on an application that has generated intense opposition from neighboring residents and objections from both county and state government.
Verizon Wireless has taken the lead role in a group of four cell companies -- Sprint Mobile, AT& T and T-Mobile are also involved -- that is seeking to build a 130-foot monopole and a 2,760-square foot equipment compound at the edge of CSC's County Park Drive property. The club's property straddles the border between Cranford and Westfield, and residents in both towns have hired an attorney to represent their objections. The residents claim the tower is out of place in the residential area and question the phone companies' assertion of a gap in coverage.
Because of the proposed tower's proximity to county-owned Lenape Park, which is part of the historic Rahway River Parkway, the application has also drawn opposition from the Union County Board of Freeholders and the state Historic Preservation Office.
At Monday's hearing Greg Meese, an attorney for the applicant, elicited testimony from site acquisition expert Claire DiNardo regarding what he called a lack of alternative locations.
Testifying that she was contracted to perform the search in late 2003, DiNardo said that she was given a circular search area about a mile wide, extending from the swim club south to the intersection of Orchard and Tulip streets, and ranging from Nomahegan Park to Fairview Cemetery. Within those confines, there were no properties that met the guidelines of the Cranford telecommunications ordinance -- namely, areas that were zoned for commercial use or had existing tall structures.
DiNardo said that she contacted the Cranford Swimming Club, Union County College, Nomahegan Park, Fairview Cemetery, Dreyer Farms and Sunrise Senior Living Facility during her search, but only the swim club expressed interest.
Beside those locations, "every other property is a single-family type use with a house on it without space for a facility," DiNardo said.
DiNardo said she had sent five letters to Union County College expressing interest in the placing a tower on the college's Cranford campus, but the repeated requests were all rebuffed.
Asked by board member Chris Drew if the college's rejection was unusual, DiNardo said she could not say with certainty. "I can't tell you if there is a specific trend, but I can tell you there are other colleges and universities that have (cell towers)," she said.
Outlining the other responses, DiNardo said she was told by county legal officials that Nomahegan Park was encumbered by Green Acres restrictions and that the Fairview board of directors was not interested. No response was received from either Dreyer Farms or Sunrise, she said.
A last attempt to contact all of the properties that had been previously considered was made in December 2007. "We don't always get a response when people aren't interested," DiNardo said.
Responding to DiNardo's testimony, Norman Albert, an attorney for Union County, argued that the applicant's search had not been as exhaustive as she claimed because at no point had a request for diversion of Green Acres space been made by the phone companies.
Meese, the applicant's attorney, objected to that line of questioning and said that "Green Acres is a red herring" that had no bearing on the application.
Albert countered by saying that there is a process in place for such circumstances and the process had not been completed. "They haven't asked" about adjusting the Green Acres designation, he said.
Albert went on to say that the Sunrise facility is less than 200 feet from the proposed site, which means the property owners there would have been notified of the current application. "You think they would have taken the letter they received from you in December, after they already know about this plan, seriously?" he asked.
DiNardo also faced questioning from John Schmidt, an attorney with the firm of Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper, which has been retained to represent about 40 residents in the area.
Schmidt asked DiNardo if she had ever been involved in any application to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for Green Acres diversion. She responded that she had previously been involved in one such request, which was not successful.
The hearing will continue on May 5, when the applicant is slated to introduce testimony from a real estate appraiser, a radiofrequency engineer and a planner.
Leslie Murray is a staff writer for the Chronicle. She can be reached at (732) 396-4205 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, March 14, 2008
At Hearing, Lawyers Spar Over Alternate Tower Site
Posted by Cranford Resident at 8:25 PM
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Cranford Swim Club Cell Tower Hearing Moves On
By STEVEN REILLY
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader
CRANFORD — The battle over the placement of a cell tower in a residential neighborhood took a step forward at Monday’s Cranford zoning board meeting. Lawyers for both sides presented arguments on the selection process of the Cranford Swim Club as the site for Verizon Inc.’s cell tower.
Greg Meese, an attorney from the Woodcliff Lake law firm Price, Meese, Shulman and D’Armino, represents Verizon Inc., which seeks to install a 130-foot-tall cellular tower and equipment shed on the grounds of the Cranford Swim Club.
Mr. Meese presented Claire Dinardo as an expert witness for Verizon to testify on the need to place the tower on the swim club property. Ms. Dinardo is the president of Arionda real estate consultants out of Haddonfield. She was hired by Verizon as a “site acquisition expert.” According to testimony from Ms. Dinardo, the search for a property to install the cell tower began in 2003 when “radio frequency engineers” identified a “gap” in service for wireless customers in the area.
Ms. Dinardo testified that Verizon targeted an area in Cranford that included the Union County College Cranford campus, Nomahegan Park, Dreyer’s Farm, all in Cranford, and Fairview Cemetery and the Sunrise Assisted Living facility in Westfield, as well as the swim club.
According to Mr. Dinardo, the “search area” identified by the radio engineers consists mostly of one-family homes that do not meet the requirements of the zoning laws to host cell towers. The properties targeted by Verizon “made the spirit of the law.”
“I started with Union County College. That was the first choice for the site,” Ms. Dinardo said. According to testimony, letters were sent to the president’s office of Union County College seeking to place the tower on the campus. Officials from Verizon met with representatives from the college, however, Ms. Dinardo said that the college “was not interested.”
According to Ms. Dinardo, Verizon got the same response from Fairview Cemetery, Sunrise Senior Home and Dreyer’s Farm. The swim club was the only site that agreed to the placement of the tower, she said.
Norman Albert, the deputy Union County counsel, spoke in opposition to Verizon’s application to install the cell tower on the swim club property. Mr. Albert called effectiveness of the letters sent out to property owners by Ms. Dinardo.
According to testimony, Ms. Dinardo’s company sent letters of interest to the property owners in 2003 and began discussions with the college, the cemetery and the swim club.
The college was the first choice for the tower, but college officials declined the offer on three occasions, Ms. Dinardo said. The cemetery also considered Verizon’s offer but declined, she said. Sunrise Assisted Living and Dreyer’s Farm never responded to Verizon’s letter, she said. Ms. Dinardo stated that Verizon did not pursue placing the tower in Nomahegan Park based on the restrictions imposed by the state’s Green Acres open space program.
“We send a certified letter to the property owner or the highest ranking official. It is up to them to respond to the letters,” Ms. Dinardo said. “We are not going to harass people and knock on doors.”
Mr. Albert focused his argument on the letters that were sent out by Dinardo’s company. Ms. Dinardo testified that five letters were sent to the college, three to Union County regarding Nomahegan Park, two to the cemetery and one to the senior home.
Mr. Albert argued that Verizon did not make a satisfactory attempt to find an alternative location for the tower that would be less intrusive as the swim club property. “The county is here to object to the site for the tower based on the negative impact on local residents as well as the proximity to historic lands,” Mr. Albert said.
Mr. Albert questioned Ms. Dinardo on the process to find a site for the tower and the use of the letters. “Did you ever go to a site to discuss a proposal?” Mr. Albert asked. “We have to be careful on how many letters we send. We do not want to border on becoming telemarketers,” Ms. Dinardo said. “The property owners have no legal responsibility to talk to us. Once they say ‘no,’ we leave it at that.”
According to Mr. Albert, Verizon did not seek all the options to find an alternative site before settling on the swim club. “What would happen if the county said it was interested?” Mr. Albert asked. “What would happen if the county said ‘come with us to apply for a diversion from the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection)?’ We don’t know because Verizon never applied.”
Another meeting on the application to place a cell tower on the Cranford Swim Club property is scheduled for Monday, May 5.
Posted by Cranford Resident at 9:52 AM
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Letter to the Editor
March 7, 2008
Cell Towers Can Destroy Residential Neighborhoods
To The Chronicle:
Recently, while having lunch with some neighbors in Cranford, I heard a woman say, "I wouldn't want it in my backyard." I glanced over, saw three women and determined that they were discussing the proposed 130-foot cell tower to be located on the Cranford/Westfield border, near Lenape Park. Yes, ladies, it doesn't belong in a residential area or anyone's backyard. This is a huge commercial tower with many antennas and a large complex of buildings underneath. It belongs on a highway like the Turnpike, in an industrial park, or in an isolated rural area not near any homes. The idea to put it in a park setting and looming over single-family homes is preposterous!
The greed of the Cranford Swimming Club's potential profiteers shows no concern for the nearby residents and park users. Anyone operating a business adjacent to a residential area would not agree to put such a huge monstrosity on their property, as they would offend their neighbors and alienate potential customers. What is occurring here is unconscionable! We who live here have had to hire an attorney, incurring large legal fees to defend our neighborhoods and property values through no fault of our own.
This is the time to stop this intrusion of these towers in residential areas, as more will follow if a precedent is set. There are already many cell towers in Union County. While the long-term health effects, if any, are unknown, the financial and emotional destruction of neighborhoods is a certainty!
You can help by telling your officials on the planning and zoning boards that this is not what you want for your towns and the park land that many people enjoy. If you would like to contribute toward legal fees to help fight this proposal, send a check made out to A.C.T.-Cranford/Westfield to J. Schuvart, 40 Manitou Circle, Westfield, NJ 07090 or J. Muratore, 106 Kenilworth Boulevard, Cranford, NJ 07016.
There will be a Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting regarding the proposed cell tower at 8:15 p.m. Monday, March 10 at the Cranford municipal building. Call the Zoning Board for confirmation at (908) 709-7216. Come out and show your support for stopping this proposal. We thank you for any help offered.
Posted by Cranford Resident at 8:51 PM
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Board Hears Cell Tower Plan
By Paul Greulich
Thursday, March 6, 2008
CRANFORD, NJ - Residents, officials and attorneys are gearing up for another round of hearings on the subject of a proposed cell tower on County Park Drive scheduled for Monday’s Zoning Board meeting.
Since appearing before the board in October, this application has consistently brought large numbers of residents to the council chambers, where meetings running until midnight have become common.
Attorney John H. Schmidt Jr., who represents some 40-50 residents in the area of the proposed tower, said he expects there will probably be still more meetings before a vote is taken.
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.
Much of the last 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.”
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 in recent meetings in the efforts to clear up some of the information that was before the board.
“Most of us were rather pleased with the performance of the counsel 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. Kowalski said she feels cell towers are a necessary part of life, but finds the proposed location near the park unsuitable.
“I feel a real responsibility for protecting the parks and protecting the people who live near the parks,” Kowalski said. “I hope this can all be worked out and keep the park in its scenic condition.”
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.
Article Courtesy of LocalSource.com
Posted by Cranford Resident at 2:42 PM
Sunday, March 2, 2008
The Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment will be holding a continuation meeting for the Cranford Swim Club cell tower proposal on Monday, March 10, 2008.
DATE: Monday, March 10, 2008
PLACE: Cranford Municipal Building [Room 107], 8 Springfield Avenue, Cranford, New Jersey
The following will be heard:
Application #Z17-07: (Continuation)
New York SMSA Limited Partnership, Applicant
201 County Park Drive, Block 109, Lot 46, R-1 Zone
To permit construction of a telecommunications tower with the following variances/waivers:
Tower not permitted in the R-1 zone (136-33K(6);
To exceed the maximum allowable height for a tower (136-33K(10);
Less than the minimum required setback for a tower (136-33K(10)(b);
Less than the minimum required setback to a residential zone for a tower (136-33K(10)(c);
To exceed the maximum allowable square footage for an equipment cabinet (136-33K(12)(a);
Less than the minimum required front yard setback for equipment (136-30.6);
Less than the minimum required side yard setback (136-30.7)
PUBLIC PORTION - Any interested party may appear at said hearing and participate therein in accordance with the rules of the Zoning Board.
Please mark your calendars and make arrangements to attend. This meeting is absolutely crucial and we must have a strong residential turnout to show our complete opposition against this cell tower proposal!
We encourage you to bring along your friends, family members, neighbors; everyone and anyone who is willing to attend. There is absolute power in numbers and we need to clearly show our opposition before the board.
We hope to see you all there!
Posted by Cranford Resident at 3:20 PM