Wireless firm withdraws tower plan

Photo by Ron Leir/ Neighbors' lawn signs expressed their displeasure about the proposed cell tower at Broad St. and Bay Ave.



By Ron Leir

The cell tower battle is over . . . at least for now.
An opening salvo was made by T-Mobile Northeast of Parsippany in February when it filed an application for use and height variance approval with the township Zoning Board of Adjustment to “construct a new monopole for wireless telecommunications.”
That proposed 120-foot-high pole, and equipment cabinets, were to be installed on the grounds of a private garden center owned and operated by the O’Boyle family at Broad St. and Bay Ave.
Members of the Zoning Board were due to hear more testimony – and probably vote on the plan – on Oct. 20.
But after neighbors organized vocal opposition to the project, the applicant opted to bow out, informing the board of its decision in an Oct. 10 letter from Rockaway attorney James K. Pryor.
“I have been authorized by T-Mobile to advise you that the Applicant desires to withdraw this case without prejudice. Obviously, this will render the Oct. 20, 2011, hearing date moot,” Pryor wrote.
That means that T-Mobile can re-file the application at some later date without penalty but, at least for now, the company isn’t going forward with the proposal.
And that’s just fine with more than 200 neighbors of the proposed tower site who signed a petition urging the Zoning Board to deny the application.
“The No Broad Street Cell Tower Group would personally like to thank everyone for their support in spreading the word in fighting the T-Mobile Cell Tower at the Brookside Garden Center and coming to all the meetings to show your opposition,” said a statement released by Maria Probst, Sandra Cummins, Pat Gilleran and Megan Wiley.
“As residents of Bloomfield,” the petition said, “we strongly oppose the construction of this cell tower in a residential area that (is near) a park, an elementary school, and the Brookside and North Center shopping areas.
“In addition to questionable health effects, the construction of said monopole will negatively impact neighboring property values,” it added.
Probst asserted that a 120-foot-high monopole just “doesn’t fit in this neighborhood.”
To install the pole, Probst said, T-Mobile planned to “go down 40 feet from the water table” in an area “already overwhelmed with flooding issues.”
Moreover, Probst added, “we don’t know about the long-term health effects” from the wireless equipment.
That uncertainty was disturbing for Cummins, a breast cancer survivor whose property shares a common border with the site that was targeted for the wireless materials.
“Why should I have to live with it?” Cummins asked. “It would offer no benefit to anyone living in the area.”
Cummins alleged that T-Mobile failed to document that subscribers had complained about a service coverage gap in the area.
And, she said, if the company’s proposed merger with AT&T doesn’t go through, “we don’t even know if they’ll still be in business a year from now.”
If the tower had been built, Cummins said, the “aesthetics of an obelisk eyesore” would have been “detrimental to the nearby town park and restaurant row.”
Fairfield attorney John Dusinberre, who represented the owner of a medical office adjacent to the proposed tower site, said concern for public safety and health ought to “outweigh the need for (improved) coverage.”
T-Mobile “shouldn’t just get carte blanche to put its cell tower anywhere it wants,” he said.
Dusinberre recalled testimony offered at one of the several zoning hearings that referenced leakage from an apparently abandoned underground storage tank on the property where the pole was to be placed. Test borings showed the presence of petroleum, he said.
“Our concern now is that this leakage is not forgotten,” Dusinberre added.
Residents also expressed fears about ice forming atop the pole in winter and possibly falling on people below, or the pole itself falling. They also asked whether other locations might better serve T-Mobile’s coverage needs.
Bloomfield residents have been part of a growing chorus of naysayers fighting proposed wireless cell towers around the state in such communities as Woodbridge, Manville, Scotch Plains, Cranford, Basking Ridge and Harding Township, among others.
A statement released last week by company spokeswoman Jane Builder said: “T-Mobile is committed to providing the highest quality of wireless service to our customers in Bloomfield. We’re in the process of evaluating our projected construction schedule for our site on Broad St.
“As the recent experience with Hurricane Irene reminds us, families are best served when comprehensive wireless coverage improves access to emergency services for personal and public safety purposes as well as the ability to stay connected to the important people in their lives. It takes a robust network and new wireless facilities to reliably make all of those wireless connections.”

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