Friday, April 9, 2010

The Westfield Leader 04/08/2010

Cranford Cell Tower Decision Is Upheld by Superior Court

CRANFORD – The township board of adjustment’s (BOA) decision to ban erecting a 120-foot cell phone tower on the property of the Cranford Swimming Club was upheld last month by the state Superior Court.

State Superior Court Judge Douglas Fasciale, of Westfield, on March 19 wrote that the decision of the BOA is affirmed. The judge heard arguments from Omnipoint in court on January 15. In his letter, Judge Fasciale wrote, “Omnipoint failed to prove the particular suitability of the site by demonstrating the need for a facility on the property. Omnipoint failed to submit reliable evidence of a coverage gap at the 1900 MHz frequency. The proposed site contravenes the purpose and intent of the zoning ordinance to restrict telecommunication to nonresidential zones, may negatively impact nearby property values and will have a negative visual impact of the surrounding area, which includes a recreational park.”

“We’re really happy with the decision. I think it’s the right decision for our community,” BOA Chairman Robert Hellenbrecht told The Westfield Leader last week. The proposed site for the tower borders both Westfield and Cranford, and from October 2007 through December 2008, residents of both municipalities,as well as the county, fought Verizon Wireless, Omnipoint Communications, New Cingular PCS, and Sprint Spectrum, which pulled out mid-way through the hearings, in their joint application to install the monopole. The cellular companies cited there was a gap in coverage in the area, and the swim club, located on County Park Drive, was the only
property approached that was willing to provide space for a tower. Union
County College and Dreyer Farms, both across from Nomahegan Park, were other locations approached by the cellular companies.

In December 2008, the BOA unanimously decided that the applicant did not prove a significant gap in coverage and that the detriments to the residents surrounding the area of the proposed cell tower location outweighed the benefits.

Omnipoint filed an appeal to the board’s decision in early 2009 citing, “there was no competent expert testimony or other evidence disputing any of the plaintiff’s testimony or evidence, only net opinions unsupported by any factual analysis or study.” As part of its appeal, Omnipoint produced in court an FCC ruling that was adopted on November 18, 2009, after the BOA denied the application. According to the judge’s letter, Omnipoint can apply for a new application for a zoning variance based on the FCC ruling and “the BOA will need to address that request.”

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