Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cranford Chronicle 03/27/2010

A definite victory for all of the hundreds of residents who fought this battle spanning over two years! Thank you again to all who contributed in fighting this cell tower!

Superior Court Upholds Cranford Zoning Board’s Rejection of 120-foot Cell Tower, Ending Emotional Application
By Leslie Murray
March 27, 2010

CRANFORD - The 2008 decision by the township Board of Adjustment which rejected a 120-foot cell tower at the Cranford Swimming Club (CSC) has been upheld by the Superior Court of New Jersey.

In December 2008, the Cranford Zoning Board of Adjustment rejected an application by Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Omnipoint, a branch of T-Mobile, as a cooperative to build a 120-foot monopole tower on the grounds of the club near the Cranford-Westfield border.

The providers proposed building the tower on the only non-residential property in the area in a segment of the property less than 20 feet from the shared property line with homes in Westfield.

The application, which was heard in a series of 10 meetings that stretched for 14 months, was ultimately rejected when the board unanimously found that the cellular providers had failed to prove a significant gap in coverage.

While the cellular carriers claimed that the tower was essential to providing coverage for the area, residents from both Cranford and Westfield joined together in listing their objections, saying that the tower would irreparably damage their property values and way of life.

An appeal was filed in New Jersey Superior Court in February 2009 by Omnipoint seeking to have the decision overturned. The appeal was filed on behalf of Omnipoint by attorney Gregory Meese. Township Board of Adjustment David Weeks represented Cranford in the claim.

In a March 19 letter of opinion, Judge Douglas Fasciale dismissed the compliant with prejudice, barring Omnipoint from filing additional action on the claim, and upheld the decision by the board.

Fasciale wrote in the opinion that Omnipoint “failed to prove the particular suitability of the site” and that the board was appropriate in the decision. He further rejected a claim by Omnipoint that an FCC Declaratory Ruling filed on November 18, 2009 would support their case for a cellular tower because the ruling was filed after the board had rendered their decision.

However, Fasciale said that FCC decision could be introduced should the wireless carrier file another application for that site.

The decision by the Superior Court brings to a close a heated and emotional application. Residents from Cranford and Westfield packed the municipal building for hearings on the applications. A group comprised of a few dozen residents banded together to hire an attorney to represent their objections in the application.

Residents launched a campaign against the application during the hearings and on their front lawns with signs that urged for the tower to be rejected.

Objections to the tower were also raised by representatives of Union County, claiming that the tower would have a lasting negative impact on Lenape Park.

While resident’s voiced their objections, the cellular providers made the claim that CSC was the only non-residential property in the area of Springfield Avenue and Kenilworth Boulevard willing to host a tower and would help to provide consistent cellular coverage in the area.

This week Cranford Mayor Mark Smith praised the decision by the courts. While the Township Committee did not take action on the issue, Smith said the governing body was confident in the decision by the Board of Adjustment.

“I’m pleased to hear that (the decision was upheld),” Smith said. “I think it shows that the system works.”

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