Thursday, March 6, 2008

Local Source: Cranford News 3/06/2008

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.

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