Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Zoning Board Voices Resounding “No” to Cell Tower Application

On Monday, December 8, 2008 the Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to deny, in full, the application set forth by Verizon Wireless (et al) to construct a 120' cell tower on the property of the Cranford Swim Club, 201 County Park Drive, Cranford.

Following several hours of public comment consisting of resident after resident voicing opposition to this cell tower application, the attorney(s) for the county, the residents and the applicant presented their final statements to the board.

Deliberations by the Zoning Board began at approximately 11:15pm and included comments, discussion and questions from the board as well as instruction from the Zoning Board attorney, David P. Weeks.

Mr. Weeks reviewed several points of the application, including, but not limited to:

1. The tower is not a Permitted Use in an R-1 Zone (Single Family Residential Zone);
2. The applicant is seeking to place a 120’ tower where the height limit is 30’ in a Residential (R-1) Zone. This is a staggering 90’ height variance request;
3. In total, the application includes eight bulk variances;
4. The applicant is requesting a Use Variance, which would allow a cell tower (Commercial Use) in a Residential Zone;
5. The applicant is seeking a variance to allow two Principal Uses on one singular property;
6. Citing Court Rulings; a cell tower is not an inherently beneficial use (i.e. a church, school, etc.); therefore it is treated as a Commercial Use.

The board began deliberations with comments from several members. There was a unanimous agreement by the board that the applicant failed to prove that a significant gap in coverage exists in the proposed area. Additional comments by the board included:

1. There would be a negative impact on the surrounding parkland by introducing such an intrusive structure to the existing landscape;
2. The cell tower would result in a diminution of home values in the surrounding are by 10%-15%;
3. Approval of this application would set a dangerous precedent for all Residential Zones in the Township of Cranford and would have a detrimental impact on the Zoning Map of the Township of Cranford;
4. The application is unrealistic and the applicant did not provide sufficient evidence to justify constructing of a cell tower so close to residential homes;
5. The negative criteria far outweighs the positive and the granting of this application would cause substantial detriment to the public good;
6. Both the county and the state are strongly opposed to this application;
7. This structure would introduce an intrusive use into a Residential (R-1) Zone;
8. The proposed tower would not fill any alleged “gap” of coverage in the area due to overwhelming evidence that no such “gap” exists.

The Zoning Board Chair, Robert Hellenbrecht, went on to say that it is the board’s job to protect the general welfare of the residents and the community, conserve the value of the land in our township as well as to prohibit Principal Uses in zones which they are strictly prohibited by the land use laws of our township.

Following an hour long deliberation, the Zoning Board Members; Robert Hellenbrecht, Carolyn Youngs, Ronald Marotta, Christopher Drew, Robert Bovasso, Jeffrey Pistol and Barbara Ginsberg voted unanimously to deny this application in full.