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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Westfield Leader 12/18/2008

Residents Made Difference In Denial of Cell Tower
By Christina M. Hinke

CRANFORD — The earnest voice of residents weighed on the township zoning board of adjustment’s unanimous, Monday, December 8, decision to reject a 120 foot cell tower monopole proposed in a residential neighborhood at the Cranford Swim Club.

The 10-hearing heated debate between the applicant, SMSA Limited Partnership, consisting of Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile, and a team of Westfield and Cranford residents represented by their attorney John Schmidt, had heard testimony by the applicant’s radiofrequency expert Glenn Pierson citing a gap in coverage.

Board member Christopher Drew told The Westfield Leader that after hearing testimony by residents at the November meeting that cited their own test of cell phone service in the “gap” that showed they could make calls inside buildings and outside without a problem that, “I think you have to trust the people on the ground. Who better to judge than the folks who are affected by it?” “Based on testimony I felt it was the right thing to do,” he said. The application sought seven variances, including use, height and setback. “It was way too much all the way around. A bad place, a bad project and, quite frankly, I’m very happy for the residents.”

Jo Ann Neylan told The Leader she and Vicki Kimmins attended the meetings to support the Westfield residents as second ward representatives of the Westfield Town Council. “We’re happy that the residents were satisfied [by the board’s decision to deny the application]. We just hope that the technology in the future is as such that they don’t have to have so many cell towers around,” Ms. Neylan said. Ms. Kimmins said the zoning board “really listened to the residents. How it affected them personally — it really counted... All those voices together really made a difference,” she said.

“I think the decision was a correct one. Too close to a residential area and too close to a park.” Robert Hellenbrecht, chairman of the Cranford board, said, “My belief was that there was not a significant gap in service and weighed against the detriment, we as a board felt compelled to deny it.”

Mr. Schmidt, in his closing remarks, said, “The evidence in this case says the application should be denied.” He also said when his radiofrequency expert requested to review the data that was relied upon for Mr. Pierson’s evidence of a gap of coverage that “there was none.” The applicant’s attorney, Gregory Meese, said drive test data showing his applicant having a significant gap in coverage along Kenilworth Boulevard and Springfield Avenue is updated regularly and is why the old data was erased and he said the data didn’t change.

Norman Albert, a representative for the County of Union and a Cranford resident, asked the board to consider its “common sense” when weighing the detriment a cell tower would have on property values, siding that a tower would decrease the value of a home.

John Schuvart, a Westfield resident who, along with his wife Jenny and son Michael, was among a group of some 90 people who hired Mr. Schmidt, said the tower “would have cost the neighborhood property value loss… This is almost everybody’s single investment in their lives.” “If you want to be in the cell phone business, you got to pay the price. But don’t lean on us,” Mr. Schuvart said. He told The Leader that residents spent about $40,000 to $50,000 to battle the case. “It’s so sad that things are handled this way, that it puts so much stress on people, the residents. We have lost some of our lives, our health. Every night my last thoughts were ‘how the heck are we going to fight this cell tower?’ Isn’t that a shame?” said Mr. Shuvart, who has owned his home for over 40 years. “We pay our taxes every quarter, we’ve been good citizens, we raised our children here. To be confronted with this in this time in your life is so sad. Our neighbors are mostly older. It’s tough. It’s disrupting our lives. It’s going to take us a while to get over it. My wife says she doesn’t think she’ll ever get over it. There is so much they could have done to make it easier.”

Frank Krause, a Cranford resident, said the decision to deny the application “certainly was saving the value of the land” for the residential lots in Westfield and Cranford surrounding the proposed site, the swim club property and the Union County Green Acres parkland.

Cranford resident Marjorie Meise told the board “before I left today my daughter, a college student, said to me ‘you go mom, you bring forth your voice…, but it’s not going to change a thing.’” “I said…‘People’s voices count…’” In a final statement by Mr. Drew at last Monday’s hearing, he said to Ms. Meise, “Please tell her and all of her friends that they can always make a difference and that her mom absolutely made a difference today.”

“We’ve (the board) never had the participation and we’ve never had the strong opinion of so many residents. I take that to heart and I take that serious,” board member Ronald Marotta said.

“I felt this was an unfair application for the residents to have this tower behind their homes. No one else in the state and the country has experienced this…these people have been asked an unusual burden,” board member Carolyn Youngs said. “I think it’s really unrealistic to have these cell towers within a couple miles of each other.”

Mr. Meese did not return phone calls inquiring about his client’s decision to appeal the board’s decision.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cranford Chronicle 12/10/2008

Board Rejects 14-Month Long Cranford Swimming Club Cell Tower Application
By Leslie Murray
December 10, 2008

CRANFORD - After 14 months of testimony given over the course of 10 meetings, the application to build a 120-foot monopole cell tower at the Cranford Swimming Club (CSC) was unanimously rejected by the Zoning Board of Adjustment during the Monday, Dec. 8 meeting.

In voting on the application, which drew serious objections from Cranford and Westfield residents as well as from Union County representatives, board members agreed that the application, a cooperative effort by Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Omnipoint, a branch of T-Mobile, failed to prove a significant gap in coverage. What's more board members also said that the negative impact on the residents who live in the area surrounding CSC would be significant and outweighed any benefit from the tower. The decision was met with a boisterous round of applause from the audience.

Drawing about 60 members of the public, the end of the final meeting of the long and contentious application was marked by public comments and the closing statements made by attorney for the applicant Gregory Meese and the attorneys representing the objectors - John Schmidt who represented a group of residents and Norman Albert who represented Union County.

As they spoke, residents from the area surrounding the swim club asked the board to reject the application, saying that the tower would be utterly detrimental to their quality of life.

Saying that residents were being unfairly saddled with the tower because of a decision by the swim club, Ellen Miller said she could only guess that the club would use the lease payments from the tower to pay for upgrades in the facility.

"I am a former member of the Cranford Swimming Club and I have paid my dues. Now I feel I'm being asked to pay dues again," Miller said.

Offering a visual aid of where the tower would be from one property line, resident Tom Graham took out a tape measure and stood 14 feet from the podium, asking the board to protect the residents.

Call the evidence presented by the applicant unimpressive, Norman Schwartz said that adding a cell tower in the neighborhood would urbanize the suburban neighborhood no matter how the cellular providers suggested camouflaging it.

"I don't care if it has branches on it. I don't care if it has nests on it. 'Welcome to New York City,'" Schwartz said. "I'm pleading with you: just vote no."

Offering support, Linden resident Joseph Sarica said that as the mail carrier for the area he understood why residents chose the quiet, calm neighborhood.

"They're good people. They're hardworking people. They don't deserve this," he said.

The concern of residents also drew support from Union County Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski and Westfield Councilwoman Vicky Kimmins, both of whom encouraged the board to reject the application.

The meeting became more heated as the attorneys offered their closing statements, taking to task the witnesses and the testimony that had been offered throughout the application.

Offering his statements first, Albert said that the applicant had failed to make their case. He specifically took aim at the testimony regarding attempts to find alternate sites for the cell tower, calling the efforts "wholly inadequate."

"The detrimental impact on the residential area and a county park land ... is really incontrovertible," Albert said.

In his closing statement, Schmidt criticized the entire application saying that not only had the applicant failed to prove a gap in coverage but that the experts offered testimony that was based on data that did not exist.

"I submit that that this applicant has failed to show not only a significant gap in coverage but any gap in coverage," Schmidt said.

Furthering his statements, he said that by allowing a cell tower in a residential area, the board would be setting a dangerous precedent.

"You're going to open the door with this application and you are not going to be able to close it," Schmidt said.

Firing back, Meese said that in making the application the cellular carriers had proposed a tower in "the least obtrusive site" in an area that needed cellular coverage.

"They have an (FCC) license. They have the need for the site. They have investigated all other possible sites," Meese said. "Clearly the benefits outweigh the determents."

However the board members disagreed, saying that the applicant had failed to prove that there was a gap in coverage that would be filled by the proposed cell tower.

Making a motion to reject the application, board member Christopher Drew said the applicant had failed to make their case.

"Quite frankly, I don't think a significant gap in coverage has been proven," Drew said, drawing a round of applause.

Seconding the motion, Robert Bovasso said that in addition to not making the case that residential property values would remain unaffected, the application had not appropriately proved that the coverage was needed. "I don't believe that a gap in coverage had been demonstrated. It's too speculative," he said.

Offering his comment, board chairman Robert Hellenbrecht said that he "(did not) believe this tower is going to solve any big problems."

"I believe that the determents substantially outweigh the benefits," Hellenbrecht said.

Leslie Murray is a staff writer for The Chronicle. She can be reached at (908)464-5214 or lmurray@njnpublishing.com.

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.

CSC Cell Tower Unanimously DENIED!

The Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimously this evening 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.

For more information on the reasons for denial, please be sure to check back as further updates will be posted tomorrow!

A huge thank you again to each and every resident who spoke up in opposition to this tower. Your voices were finally heard!


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Action Alert! Zoning Board Meeting 12/08/2008

The Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment will hold a continuation hearing for the Cranford Swim Club cell tower proposal on Monday, December 8, 2008.

Meeting Information:

DATE: Monday, December 8, 2008

TIME: 8:15pm

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


At this meeting, public comment in opposition to the application will continue, the attorneys will make their final closing statements and the board will begin to deliberate on the application with a decision possible.


As this application is now passing the year-long mark, we would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every resident who stood strong with their ongoing support, dedication and continued involvement in this cause.

As the application comes to an end, we must now continue to make it clear that this cell tower application must be denied!

I urge all residents who did not have a chance to make their statement during public comment at the last meeting to take the opportunity at this next meeting. It is crucial that each and every resident have a chance to be heard!

Thank you again to all! You're overwhelming support has been amazing!

See everyone at the meeting!

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!

Cranford Chronicle 12/07/2008

Final Cell Tower Meeting in Cranford
Cranford Chronicle
December 07, 2008

CRANFORD - On Monday, Dec. 8, at 8:15 p.m. there will be the final cell tower meeting by the Cranford Zoning Board, at the Cranford Municipal Building, located at 8 Springfield Ave., Cranford.

The meeting is regarding the proposal to erect a 120-foot cell tower, a large building and related structures at the Cranford Swim Club, 201 County Park Drive which is on the Cranford/Westfield border.

This area is zoned strictly residential and is also adjacent to Lenape Park, a County Park used by residents of many nearby towns.

This is the last meeting on this proposal and comments from the community will be listened to by the Zoning Board and a definitive decision will be made.

All interested persons are urged to attend and participate before this decision is final. Call the Cranford Zoning Department at (908) 709-7216 for confirmation or with questions.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Suburban News 12/03/2008

Cell Tower Final Meeting

Cranford – On December 8 at 8:15 p.m. there will be the final cell tower meeting by the Cranford Zoning Board, at the Cranford Municipal Building, 8 Springfield Ave., Cranford, regarding the proposal to erect a 120-foot cell tower, a large building and related structures at the Cranford Swim Club, 201 County Park Drive which is on the Cranford/Westfield border.

Be advised this area is zoned strictly residential as is also adjacent to Lenape Park, a County Park used by residents of many nearby towns.

This is the last meeting on this proposal and comments from the community will be listened to by the Zoning Board and a definitive decision will be made.

All interested persons are urged to attend and participate before this decision is final.

Call the Cranford Zoning Department at 908-709-7216 for confirmation or questions.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wireless Estimator 12/02/2008

Residents, Cities, County and State Synchronized Against Defeating Swim Club Monopole Application

CRANFORD, NJ - After a year of nine meetings on a contentious application to construct a cellular tower at the Cranford Swim Club, the public will still have to wait for a decision on a 120-foot monopole to be erected at the rear of the swim club property on the border of Cranford and Westfield.

According to attorney Greg Meese and other experts for the cellular providers, the tower is necessary to fill a gap in coverage and to meet service demands.

Residents in both communities have objected, saying they do not experience a lack of cellular coverage and that the tower will negatively impact their property values. The application has also drawn objections from Union County and the state.

Article Courtesy of WirelessEstimator.com