Friday, June 27, 2008

Cranford Chronicle 06/27/2008

Even at 120 Feet, Tower Brings out Opposition
Friday, June 27, 2008

CRANFORD - Ten feet shorter, but still a whole heap of trouble: that's the tale of the proposed cell tower at the Cranford Swimming Club.

As the Zoning Board of Adjustment held the latest in a series of hearings about the controversial tower Monday night, a group of about 60 neighbors again crowded council chambers to object to what they see as a threat to their home values and their quality of life.

The consortium of wireless phone companies that hopes to use the tower has lost one member, announced Greg Meese, attorney for the applicant. Sprint Mobile has dropped out, leaving behind Verizon Wireless, AT& T and Omnipoint, a branch of T-Mobil. As a result, the tower would have to be only 120 feet, not the 130 originally proposed. (Meese also noted that Sprint's decision was not based on the vocal opposition to the plan -- the company has taken similar steps on applications around the state, he said.)

While the wireless carriers have maintained that they need the tower to meet current and future service demands, residents in Cranford and Westfield have banded together in opposition and hired attorney John Schmidt of Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper to represent their concerns. Union County has also objected to the application, saying the tower would be detrimental to the Rahway River Parkway, with attorney Norman Albert representing the county at the hearings.

At Monday's session, Meese attempted to introduce additional testimony from radio frequency engineer Glen Pierson. He presented raw data that had been requested in March by Schmidt, the residents' attorney.

But Schmidt quickly questioned the timing of the presentation, saying that he had been "blind-sided unfairly." Surmising that the data would have been ready for a cancelled meeting in May, Schmidt said he could not be expected to review the thick pile of material and question Pierson when he received the information just as the engineer began his testimony. At the request of board Chairman Robert Hellenbrecht, Meese agreed to have Pierson available for testimony at the next hearing.

After Pierson stepped down, the bulk of the session was given over to a real estate appraisal. John Gillooly of Integra Realty Resources presented a study that compared the sales of homes in proximity to a monopole cell tower both before and after the tower was constructed.

Explaining that he could not study the area in question because a cell tower does not currently exist there, Gillooly used as a point of comparison Brown Avenue in Springfield, a neighborhood where a cell tower was built in 2004 and that he called "roughly similar in its construction and design" to the area around County Park Drive, where the swim club is located.

In his review, Gillooly said, he found that the value of homes with a direct view of the tower and those without such a view appreciated at nearly the same rate.

Questioning the study, board member Jeffery Pistol gained a round of applause when he asked if Gillooly had taken into account buyers who might avoid an area altogether specifically because of a cell tower.

"Mountain Avenue in Springfield is different than the Boulevard in Cranford because it's a more commercial area," Pistol added.

"Yes, it's not identical to the subject area, but it's similar," Gillooly responded.

Board member Carolyn Youngs also questioned the comparison as it related to the distance between the cell tower and surrounding homes. Quoting the report, she said the closest homes in Springfield were about 600 feet from the tower there -- more than twice the distance from the proposed tower to some homes in Cranford and Westfield. She also questioned if the appreciation rate was the result of market demands that existed regardless of the tower's presence.

"My study shows there's not a big difference," Gillooly said. "If the cell tower had an impact, you would see it in the sale prices."

Given a chance to cross-examine Gillooly, Schmidt asked whether the appreciation rates were really that similar -- according to the study, homes with a direct view of the tower appreciated in value by 9.6 percent, while those without a view grew in value by 13 percent.

Gillooly interjected that the two appreciation rates "are relatively close in appraisal methodology" and he would be likely to round both figures to 10 percent.

Westfield resident Austin Habib discounted the report entirely, saying that "the neighborhoods are not compatible."

Cranford resident Paul Fuller advanced the same line of argument, asking how far the study area in Springfield was from Route 22. When Gillooly said he was uncertain, a member of the audience interjected, saying the site was just two-tenths of mile from the highway. Continuing, Fuller said the two locations -- one near a highway in Springfield, the other in a "basically rural" section of Cranford and Westfield -- were not comparable.

After Gillooly's comments, the board heard limited testimony from planner William Masters Jr. about the changes to the application caused by the Sprint's withdrawal. Masters will resume his testimony at the next hearing, on July 14. The board also has the application scheduled for hearings on Aug. 11 and 25.

After the applicant concludes its case, Schmidt and Albert will present their own expert witnesses, and the public will also have a chance to comment before the board makes a decision.

Leslie Murray is a staff writer for the Chronicle. She can be reached at (732) 396-4205 or

The Westfield Leader 06/26/2008

Sprint Backs Out of Cell Tower Proposal in Cranford

CRANFORD – Gregory Meese, attorney for SMSA Limited Partnership, the applicant proposing a cell phone tower at the Cranford Swimming Club on County Park Drive, presented revised plans during the Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting on Monday, showing the height of the monopole reduced by 10 feet, from 130 to 120 feet, because Sprint backed out of the deal. This height difference changes the required setback of tower height distances from 162.5 feet to 150 feet and alters the minimum setback to a property line, which is now 360 feet, reduced from 390 feet. The application is still not within the required setbacks.

William Master, a professional planner hired by the applicant, said the compound area for the remaining, three telecommunication companies’ equipment would stay the same size “in case of an additional carrier in the future.” Mr. Master will continue his testimony at the next meeting on Monday, July 14. John Gillooly, a real estate appraiser certified since 1992, spoke on behalf of SMSA and gave most of the testimony that evening.

He presented a paired sales analysis, which he said is a study of a sale of one property and a resale of the same or “very similar” property. He studied all “same” properties in his report. He said that since there was not a cell tower in the Cranford area in question, he looked at a “comparable location” that had a monopole. He chose 51 Brown Avenue in Springfield, north of Route 22. The tower was built in April 2004, and is “one mile from the subject’s location,” according to Mr. Gillooly.

Someone in the audience later shouted that it is two-tenths of a mile from Route 22, according to a satellite image the person had. The Springfield tower is located in an industrial zone, whereas the tower SMSA is proposing would be located in a residential zone, with the tower 246 feet from the nearest home in Westfield.

In his report, dated June 16, 2008, he showed two sets of data, those homes with a view of the tower and those without. He looked at all sales prior to and following April 2004 to determine the appreciation rate, a measure of increase in the value of a sale. He said he eliminated homes that were “substantially renovated,” which he listed as having a remodeled kitchen, a finished basement or an addition, among other things, from the first sale. This information, he said, was either obtained from a building permit issued or disclosed from a real estate agent. He also removed homes that were sold for one dollar and cases where a property was sold as part of an estate sale.

His findings determined that homes with a view of the tower increased 1 percent on average per month, or 12 percent per year, and homes without a view were the same, on average. The median rate of appreciation was 0.8 percent per month for homes with a view and 1.1 percent for homes without a view. The mean was 0.6 to 1.7 percent with a view, and 0.7 to 1.3 percent without a view per month.

Jeffrey Pistol, vice chairman of the board, asked Mr. Gillooly many questions and made comments. “You would expect to find an increase,” Mr. Pistol said of any property sale over a given time period. “It doesn’t tell us anything,” Mr. Pistol said of Mr. Gillooly’s data. Mr. Pistol added, “People know if there is a cell tower, view or not, and they may choose to look in another neighborhood. That’s the real type of analysis you should have done.” The audience clapped in response. “Just by looking at these addresses…it is more of a commercial area than Kenilworth Boulevard in Cranford,” he said. He also asked why he did not look at a comparable neighborhood without a tower to see the difference in appreciation.

Mr. Gillooly responded by saying there is not a comparable area. Mr. Gillooly told The Westfield Leader that no one had asked him to examine rates of appreciation in the Cranford/Westfield area that would be affected by the tower placed at the swim club during that same time period he calculated for Springfield to see if appreciation rates were below, same or higher than the same period in Springfield. This could give the board a way to compare the “comparable area” affected by a tower to the Cranford/Westfield neighborhood. He also said that he couldn’t compare this area to the one he calculated in Springfield because “there still could be a location difference.”

In sum, he said, “I have never found an impact” to the rate of appreciation due to a cell phone tower in proximity to a residential zone.

Westfield resident Austin Habib asked Mr. Gillooly what the prices were of the residences in his market area. He answered with numbers ranging from $380,000 to $630,000. Mr. Habib shot back that homes in the Westfield and Cranford area are in the $600,000 to $850,000 range. Mr. Habib also said “many times you don’t need a license for it [remodels].”

Norman Albert asked Mr. Gillooly if views of Manhattan or a waterfront could have a tax impact on a home, and he answered yes, it may.

Cranford resident Frank Krause later asked if a cell tower could negatively impact the tax revenue to a township by a lower tax assessment of homes with a view of a tower, and Mr. Gillooly said that was not his area of expertise. Mr. Krause also raised the question of how the members of the swim club, each an owner of the club because they buy a bond to join, could be impacted by their share in a sale should the swim club dissolve and the property be sold off.

The board said Mr. Gillooly did not have to answer since he testified to no data such as this.

Earlier in the night, Glenn Pierson, expert engineer for the applicant, gave the opponent’s attorney, John Schmidt, a pile of raw data used for Mr. Pierson’s earlier charts of gaps in coverage for each cell phone carrier that was requested before.

Mr. Schmidt said he was “blindsided” by Mr. Pierson giving him these records in the hearing, knowing he had his own witness to speak on behalf of this information. Mr. Pierson had possession of the data months earlier. Mr. Schmidt’s witness will speak at a later meeting.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Action Alert! Zoning Board Meeting Tonight!

The Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment will hold a continuation hearing for the Cranford Swim Club cell tower proposal tonight, Monday, June 23, 2008 at 8:15pm.

Meeting Information:

DATE: Monday, June 23, 2008

TIME: 8:15pm

PLACE: Cranford Municipal Building [Room 107], 8 Springfield Avenue, Cranford, New Jersey

Please arrive early as we are expecting a large turnout!

See everyone at the meeting!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cranford Chronicle 06/20/08

Cell Tower Hearing Continues Next Week
By Leslie Murray

Cranford - The next hearing on the controversial application to build a monopole cell tower at the Cranford Swimming Club will be held at 8:15 p.m. Monday, June 23 before the Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment. The hearing will take place at the Cranford municipal building, 8 Springfield Ave.

The application, which began in 2007, involves a cooperative effort by Verizon Wireless, Sprint Mobile, AT&T and Omnipoint to build a 130-foot tower on the swim club property. The wireless phone carriers have said they need the tower to fill a gap in coverage.

Residents in both Cranford and Westfield have objected to the plan, saying the tower would be an unsightly intrusion in a residential area and could have detrimental consequences for health and public safety. Union County has joined in the objection, saying the tower would have a negative impact on neighboring Lenape Park.

The most recent hearing on the application was in March. Another hearing had been scheduled for May, but was postponed. A real estate appraiser, a radio frequency engineer and a planner are slated to offer testimony on behalf of the project.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Cranford Chronicle 06/20/2008

Cranford Chronicle
Letter to the Editor

June 20, 2008

Committee, Candidates Should Oppose Cell Tower

To The Chronicle:

How would you like to walk out of the front door of your home and have to look at a 13-story tower with the paraphernalia of four cell phone companies, one on each side of it?

This is exactly what more than 100 homes in my neighborhood will be faced with if the Cranford Swimming Club is granted the seven variances they are asking for. Their members are apparently willing to do this so that they will pay lower membership fees.

They are doing this even though their children will be playing each summer within 25 or 50 feet from potentially dangerous electro-magnetic rays emanating from the tower. They are doing this even though all their neighbors' property values may be decreased. Is this the acceptable thing for neighbors to do? Would they do this if their own homes were within sight of such a tower? I don't think so.

I would like the Cranford Township Committee to pass an ordinance prohibiting such towers from being built in any residential area in Cranford. No one should have a 13-story tower within sight of his or her home. The cell phone executives go home to their beautiful surroundings; we live here 24 hours a day. We would be doing the right thing for Cranford.

This issue should not be a political one.The Democratic candidates have come out against this cell tower. The Republican candidates should also come out against the tower. Their views should be made public.

Myron Borden

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Action Alert! Zoning Board Meeting 06/23/2008

The Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment will hold a continuation hearing for the Cranford Swim Club cell tower proposal on Monday, June 23, 2008.

Meeting Information:

DATE: Monday, June 23, 2008

TIME: 8:15pm

PLACE: Cranford Municipal Building [Room 107], 8 Springfield Avenue, Cranford, New Jersey

Please arrive early as we are expecting a large turnout!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cranford Chronicle 06/13/2008

Extra Meeting Broadcasts Take Toll on TV 35 Staff
Friday, June 13, 2008

CRANFORD - Earlier this year, in an effort to make local government more transparent to the public, the Township Committee decided to have meetings of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment taped and broadcast on TV 35. But now, it seems the additional workload has created an unforeseen strain on the station's limited staff.

Station manager Ed Davenport told the committee that a variety of issues, from staffing shortages to technical obstacles, have sprung up since the station began taping and broadcasting the extra meetings.

Discussing the six land-use meetings that have been taped thus far, Davenport said only one has been taped from start to finish, because the meetings often extend late into the night and the cameras in the meeting room can only record for three hours at a stretch. That technical limitation, he told the Township Committee, has caused complaints from applicants who complained it was unfair to tape only some parts of the hearings.

In an attempt not to tax the station's staff -- Davenport and two of his assistants receive small stipends, while the other workers, many of them students, are volunteers -- Davenport has been taping the meetings on his own. That means he is responsible for moving the cameras, operating the control room and staying to the end of the meetings to shut down the camera equipment, which is linked to the meeting room's sound equipment.

"I just physically can't do it," he told the committee. The situation could become more challenging on June 23, when the Board of Adjustment continues its hearing on a proposed cell tower at the Cranford Swimming Club, he said. That controversial application has drawn large and vocal crowds.

Davenport did not explicitly ask the committee to reverse its policy of taping the land-use meetings, but the ensuing discussion did not appear to produce a solution to the problem.

Commissioner Mark Smith suggested that the committee hire professional videographers to record the meetings, but Deputy Mayor David Robinson objected.

"It's a great idea to show (the meetings) but it can't be at an additional cost," Robinson said.

Mayor Bob Puhak suggested a drive to recruit new volunteers specifically for those meetings. Davenport said that could help, but he added that all volunteers are required to go through the station's regular training process. Volunteers would also have to attain some level of expertise before being left in charge of the operation during a meeting, he said.

Offering another course of action, Smith proposed that the station cut back on other community shows, such as call-in programs, and shift its resources to the land-use meetings.

"If we don't have enough resources to tape the Planning Board and Zoning Board, which serves as a public record, then shouldn't we reallocate?" he asked.

But Davenport said that might not make much of a difference. The community programs, such as a health talk show featuring registered nutritionists or former Commissioner George McDonough's "Hear and Now," are scheduled at the convenience of the station, he said. By contrast, the land-use boards operate according to their own schedule.

Leslie Murray is a staff writer for The Chronicle. She can be reached at (732) 396-4205 or

Borough of Wood-Ridge Fights Cell Tower

Press Release

Mayor and Council Fight to Stop Cell Tower from Becoming Valley Boulevard Eyesore

Wood-Ridge, NJ - Mayor Paul Sarlo and the Borough Council have allocated funding for ongoing efforts to stop an 82-foot tall communications tower from being erected behind CVS.

"Due to elements that are inconsistent with the Borough's zoning ordinances, and the character of this community, we denied Omnipoint Communication's request for a variance needed to build this tower on March 7. The Superior Court of New Jersey overturned the denial on April 22," said Mayor Sarlo. "Financial support from this governing body will allow the Borough to move forward with an appeal of the court decision by June 6."

"This is a major quality of life issue for residents on Valley Boulevard, Innes Road and other streets surrounding CVS," Sarlo continued. "Neighors consistently expressed opinions against this project at four public hearings. As elected officials we will continue to fight to protect our residents."

Read the Entire Press Release here.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Action Alert! Zoning Board Meeting Rescheduled

The Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment has tentatively rescheduled the May 5, 2008 continuation hearing for the Cranford Swim Club cell tower proposal for the following dates:

Meeting Information:

DATE: Monday, June 23, 2008 & Monday, July 14, 2008

TIME: 8:15pm

PLACE: Cranford Municipal Building [Room 107], 8 Springfield Avenue, Cranford, New Jersey

The following will be heard:

Application #Z17-07: (Continuation)
New York SMSA Limited Partnership, Applicant
201 County Park Drive, Block 109, Lot 46, R-1 Zone

To permit construction of a telecommunications tower with the following variances/waivers:

Tower not permitted in the R-1 zone (136-33K(6);

To exceed the maximum allowable height for a tower (136-33K(10);

Less than the minimum required setback for a tower (136-33K(10)(b);

Less than the minimum required setback to a residential zone for a tower (136-33K(10)(c);

To exceed the maximum allowable square footage for an equipment cabinet (136-33K(12)(a);

Less than the minimum required front yard setback for equipment (136-30.6);

Less than the minimum required side yard setback (136-30.7)

PUBLIC PORTION - Any interested party may appear at said hearing and participate therein in accordance with the rules of the Zoning Board.

At this meeting the applicant [New York SMSA Limited Partnership/Verizon] is slated to introduce testimony from a real estate appraiser, a radiofrequency [RF] engineer and a site planner.

Please mark your calendars and make arrangements to attend. This meeting is absolutely crucial and we must have a strong residential turnout to show our complete opposition against this cell tower proposal!

All Zoning Board Meeting dates will be confirmed as the tentative dates approach. For further information on all Zoning Board Meetings, please contact the Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment (908) 709-7216.

Thank you again for all of your ongoing support!