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.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Action Alert! Zoning Board Meeting 07/14/2008

The Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment will hold a continuation hearing for the Cranford Swim Club cell tower proposal on Monday, July 14, 2008.

Meeting Information:

DATE: Monday, July 14, 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!

This Zoning Board meeting will also be televised live on Cranford's TV-35. Please tune in if you cannot make it to the meeting!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cranford Chronicle 07/11/2008

Cranford Chronicle
July 11, 2008

This Week's Events

Monday, July 14, 2008 - CELL TOWER HEARING - the Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment continues a lengthy hearing on a proposed cell tower at the Cranford Swimming Club on the Westfield/Cranford border.

8:15 p.m. Municipal building, 8 Springfield Ave. (908) 709-7216.

Cranford Chronicle 07/11/2008

Cranford Chronicle
Letter to the Editor

July 11, 2008

GOP Candidate Lays out Position on Tower

To The Chronicle:

I am one of two Republican candidates in the upcoming election for seats on the Cranford Township Committee. The other Republican candidate is Mr. Christopher Drew. This letter is in response to the letter of Mr. Myron Borden that appeared in the June 20, 2008, edition of your publication, but is really addressed to all Cranford residents, particularly those living near the Cranford Swimming Club, which is the site proposed for construction of a cellular phone tower. In his letter, Mr. Borden asked the Republican candidates to "come out against the tower."

I cannot envision anyone opposing a legally-enforceable restriction that prevents location of a cellular tower near residences. I unequivocally and unreservedly favor adoption of an ordinance prohibiting cellular towers in our community, or at the very least, in, near or within visual sight of residential and commercial areas, to the extent that it would be legally enforceable. As Mr. Borden points out, these are unsightly structures which would detract from surrounding areas that are intended to be visually appealing. They also give rise, I think quite understandably notwithstanding whatever contrary expert opinion may prevail at the moment, to genuine fears of adverse health effects. The presence of children only heightens this concern. Nor do these structures belong near our downtown, the Centennial Avenue business district or similar commercial areas. They would undermine the aesthetics that our community has long worked hard to develop to attract customers. Property values would undoubtedly diminish too.

Prohibiting cellular towers does not mean that telecommunication companies or property owners that seek to lease or sell to them could not seek variances from the ordinances as are now being sought, however. With or without such an ordinance, future applications like the current one are inevitable. It is the purpose of the Board of Adjustment to decide requests to deviate from the zoning ordinances, including outright legally-enforceable prohibitions.

I am unaware of the views of my running mate, Christopher Drew, on this topic. We have not even discussed the subject. That is because Mr. Drew sits on the Board of Adjustment that is considering this very application. As a part of this board, it is incumbent upon him, despite his candidacy, and all other members to analyze the arguments, scrutinize the evidence, and decide the application based only upon the law as applied to the facts substantiated at the hearings. To furnish his personal perspective at this juncture would be not only imprudent, but could conceivably jeopardize any result of the process that is consistent with whatever opinion he expresses. Certainly Mr. Borden and his neighbors would not want any favorable result in the present cellular tower application compromised. Yet that might follow if Mr. Drew were to respond. As a result, Mr. Drew has correctly refrained from comment.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Record Press 06/30/2008

Even at 120 Feet, Fight Continues Over Cell Tower
Monday, June 30, 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-Mobile. 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 NJN Publishing. She can be reached at (732) 396-4205 or