Friday, October 10, 2008

Cranford Chronicle 10/10/2008

Cell Tower Application Could Continue Into 2009
by Leslie Murray
Friday October 10, 2008

CRANFORD - Nearly a year after the application began, the controversial effort to build a cellular tower at the Cranford Swimming Club (CSC) continued this week.

The Oct. 6 meeting marked the eighth time the application, by a cooperative of cellular providers, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Omnipoint, a branch of T-Mobile, has been heard by the Board of Adjustment. It calls for a 120-foot monopole tower on the rear of the swim club property at the border of Cranford and Westfield.

Representing the applicant, attorney Greg Meese and other experts have maintained the carriers have a gap in coverage and need the tower to meet service demands.

Residents in both Cranford and Westfield have objected, saying the tower will negatively impact their property values and could be a health risk. A group of the objectors have hired attorney John Schmidt of Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper to represent their concerns.

The application has also drawn objections from Union County and the state, with county attorney Norman Albert saying the tower would negatively impact the neighboring Lenape Park and the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office asserting, in a letter that the Rahway River Parkway Historic District, which was identified by the National Register of Historic Places in Sept. 2002, would be damaged if the tower was erected.

During the meeting Monday, Meese cross-examined radio frequency engineer Ronald Graiff who testified in August that an overlap in cell tower locations was a bad practice.

This week, real estate appraiser Thomas Kacheiriess testified that witness John Gillooly drew an improper parallel between the County Park Drive location and a cell tower on Brown Avenue in Springfield last June.

Kacheiriess said that Gillooly's testimony "didn't show the difference in the locations" citing that in addition to having a cell tower the Brown Avenue site was also near a commercial office park, a marked difference from the Cranford site.

"The location they found in Springfield was already impaired by an industrial area that was there long before there was a tower," Kacheiriess testified.

When he was cross examined by Meese, Kacheiriess affirmed his comments that he could not find a precise match to the Cranford location, including the cases that Meese sited in Upper Saddle River and Ramapo.

Some of the strongest objections of the evening came when Schmidt introduced Michael Shuvart as a lay witness. Board attorney David Weeks said that because Shuvart testified only to photos that were taken in his presence and zoning maps that he requested, it was admissible.

Saying that Shuvart was not an engineer and could not guarantee that items were to scale, Meese questioned him as a witness in general.

Schmidt said he would have a few more lay witnesses when the application is continued to November 24, 2008.

The application, slated to continue in November, could extended into 2009 with several witness still left to testify on behalf of the objecting residents.