Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Westfield Leader 07/17/2008

Applicant Closes Case for 120-Foot Cranford Cell Tower Bordering WF
By Christina M. Hinke

CRANFORD — In the sixth hearing for the cell tower application before the Cranford zoning board on Monday, the applicant’s attorney, Gregory Meese, closed his case.

At the next meeting on August 25, John Schmidt, the attorney representing the residents opposed to the application, will bring his expert witnesses to the stand.

The applicant, SMSA Limited Partnership, composed of Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, seeks a use, height and setback variance to place the 120-foot monopole and an equipment shelter at its base in a residential zone at the Cranford Swimming Club located on County Park Drive and bordering Westfield. It was announced last month that Sprint dropped out.

Another variance was added to the application on Monday. During Mr. Schmidt’s address to the applicant’s planner, William Masters, Mr. Schmidt began reciting parts from Cranford’s Master Plan. The plan specifies that in a residential zone, only one principal use is allowed per site.

Board vice chairman Jeffrey Pistol requested the board attorney add this as another variance to the application, since the tower would be a second principal use should it erect on the swim club property.

At the last meeting, Mr. Masters said the shelter to house the telecommunication companies’ equipment would stay the same size “in case of an additional carrier in the future.” At the meeting this week he amended his testimony, stating that the size would reduce by 360 square feet to 2,400 square feet to account for the loss of Sprint.

Mr. Masters said this does not change the side-yard or front-yard setbacks because the unit would sit on the east side of the lot in an interior side of the property. He said the site is suited for a telecommunications tower, citing proximity to major traffic corridors, such as Kenilworth Boulevard and Springfield Avenue, the size of the swim club property, which he said is 3.02 acres, the proximity of the club to Lenape Park, some 270 acres of open land that is Green Acres property that cannot be developed for residential purposes, and a willing landlord.

He also said the landlord picked the spot on the property where the tower would sit. Mr. Masters presented an aerial photograph of the proposed area to place the tower, and several posters with photos showing simulations of views with the tower in place.

The simulated photos depicted a red helium balloon erected at the approximate height where the tower is proposed. Then he took the same photograph and digitally added in a tower where the balloon was shown. His pictures were taken from areas on Nomahegan Court, Springfield Avenue, Lenape Park, the swim club, and Manatoa Circle in Westfield.

“It would have some negative impact, but I don’t think it would be substantial,” Mr. Masters responded to Mr. Schmidt’s question of the impact of the view of the tower from a home. Mr. Masters said “it’s possible the view will change once the 14 trees are removed.”

Mr. Masters also gave the board photos showing a simulation of a tree pole, a pole that is outfitted to appear like a tree. Mr. Meese said the applicant is willing to use a tree pole should the board decide to approve the application and make that a condition of approval.

“I believe this board can grant this variance without substantial detriment to the public good,” Mr. Masters said. “Other than the park and Union County College, I saw no other sites that were more particularly suited [to place the tower],” Mr. Masters responded to a question from the board.

Mr. Schmidt asked Mr. Masters if the cell tower is an essential service as described in the Master Plan and Mr. Masters said he “agrees it is not an essential service.”

About 35 residents were in attendance, a drop from previous meetings.