Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Local Source: Cranford News 12/30/2008

Cell Tower Rejected
By Paul Greulich
December 30, 2008

CRANFORD, NJ - A cell tower will not have a home on the Cranford Swimming Club grounds, officials agreed after more than a year reviewing the application.

The township Zoning Board rejected the project in a unanimous vote at its Dec. 8 hearing on the application, which drew dozens of community members eager to voice their concerns during a block reserved for public comments.

Residents applauded the decision.

Officials opposed the plan on the basis that there might not be a gap in coverage and that the tower would have a negative affect on the surrounding parkland and residences. “Cell towers can be located anywhere, but you can’t move a park,” Zoning Board member Jeffrey Pistol said.

The applicant, Verizon, sought height and setback variances to erect the pole at the site in a residential area, near the county-owned Lenape Park and the historic Rahway River Park district. The tower would have been 120-feet-tall.

Resident Steve Cohen said concerned community members have spent money, missed trips and lost time with families while battling this application. “All of our lives have been disrupted by this proposal,” Cohen said.

He suggested the Swim Club broke its promise to be a good neighbor to surrounding residents by allowing Verizon to erect the pole.

Another resident, Tom Graham, said the tower and maintenance equipment also proposed in the plan would have been too close to residential properties.

“I…can’t believe it’s coming to this point where we would consider this,” Graham said, noting the township failed to consider the affect the project would have on neighboring towns, such as Westfield.

The potential impact on the County-owned Lenape Park, as well as nearby Westfield residents, drew Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski and Westfield’s Second Ward Councilwoman Vicki Kimmins to the hearing.

Kimmins sympathized with the Zoning Board, saying she understood the difficulties it faced.

An attorney for the group of local residents who opposed the plan, John Schmidt of Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook and Cooper, said Verizon did not provide thorough information on the coverage the tower would provide.

“This applicant failed to show not only a significant gap in coverage but any gap in coverage,” said Schmidt.

Verizon’s attorney, Greg Meese of Price, Meese, Shulman and D’Arminio based in Woodcliff Lake, said the proposal was based not on everyday usage, but on the maximum usage that could be expected in the future.

“You don’t base your building codes on withstanding the average wind, you base them on a strong wind,” Meese said.

Cranford may not have seen the last of this proposal.

Once the Zoning Board passes a formal resolution denying the application, the applicant has 45 days to appeal the decision in court, which Schmidt said is the likely course of action for Verizon. “With the amount of litigation that has gone on in the past involving cell towers, I am confident this will be appealed by the carriers,” he said.

Meese and representatives from the Cranford Swim Club could not be reached for comment.

Norman Albert had represented Union County’s interest with regard to Lenape Park.

Article Courtesy of LocalSource.com