Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cranford Chronicle 02/11/2009

Not unexpected, the attorneys for Verizon have filed an appeal in court against the decision made by the Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment:

Coop Appeals Zoning Board Decision to reject Cranford Swimming Club Cell Tower Application
February 11, 2009

CRANFORD - The cooperative of cellular providers who saw their bid to build a cell tower on the grounds of the Cranford Swimming Club (CSC) rejected by the Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment have filed an appeal.

On Dec. 8, 2008 after 14 months of testimony was given over the course of 10 meetings, the highly contentious application by Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Omnipoint, a branch of T-Mobil, to build a 120-foot monopole cell tower at CSC was unanimously rejected by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Although the decision was praised by residents, the applicant filed an appeal in New Jersey Superior Court on Feb. 5 seeking to have the decision overturned.

Cranford's zoning standards state that an applicant has 45 days following the date the resolution of decision was published to appeal. According to the Zoning Office, the decision on the CSC application was published on Dec. 31, 2008.

This week, Cranford Zoning Officer Robert Hudak said his office received notice of the appeal on Feb. 6.

Zoning Board chairman Robert Hellenbrecht said a resolution was passed during the Feb. 9 meeting appointing Board Attorney David Weeks to represent the board during in the appeal.

The cellular providers, who formed New York SMSA Limited Partnership to make the joint application, claimed that they needed the tower to fill a gap in cellular coverage.

Greg Meese, attorney for the applicant, who maintained throughout the hearings that his client needed the tower to meet service demands, introduced testimony during the application that CSC was the only property in the cellular providers search zone that was willing to host a tower.

However, residents in both Cranford and Westfield turned out in force to object to the application saying that tower would detract from their property value and ruin the quiet of the neighborhood which abuts Lenape Park. Some of the most vehement objections came from residents who share property lines with CSC who pleaded with Zoning Board to reject the application.

During the course of the application, residents turned out to voice their objections and a group of some 40 residents hired an attorney, John Schmidt of Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper, to represent their concerns.

The application also drew objections from Union County and the state. County attorney Norman Albert introduced testimony that the tower would negatively impact the neighboring Lenape Park and the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office asserted that the Rahway River Parkway Historic District, which was formally identified by the National Register of Historic Places in September 2002, would be damaged if the tower was erected.

The board ultimately agreed with residents saying the application failed to prove a significant gap in coverage and that the negative impact on the residents who live in the area surrounding CSC would be significant and outweighed any benefit from the tower.

This week, Weeks told the Chronicle that in their appeal the cellular providers claim that the board's decision was "arbitrary and capricious."

He said he would file a response to the appeal within the time allotted.

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