The Zoning Board of Adjustment began a series of hearings with T-mobile’s representatives Monday night, hearing from witnesses that the 130-foot cell tower meets FCC regulations and is now proposed for a site that is further away from the Glenwood School and neighborhood than previously proposed.
The cell phone giant is seeking three variances from the board to build the cell tower in the far corner of the parking lot of 830 Morris Turnpike, an office building next to Benihana and behind the Short Hills Terrace apartments.
Residents worry that the tower is still proposed too close to a residential neighborhood and Glenwood School in Short Hills.
A radio frequency engineer told the board that under “worst-case” conditions -- using the maximum number of channels and all users on 100 percent of the time --the amount of radio frequency energy emitted is still well below the FCC regulations.
“It would be less than 1 percent of the maximum permissible levels,” said engineer Ben Shidfar, who testified on T-Mobile’s behalf.
The highest levels of energy from the tower extend about 900 feet, he said. The levels closer than that are lower, as are the levels farther than that.
One resident asked how far Glenwood School is from the tower and he said on Google maps, it appeared to be 1,000 feet to the nearest end of the school’s ballfield and 1,300 feet to the school.
The monopole will have nine antennas, which will make the tower reach 133 feet high and is currently proposed with T-Mobile as the sole carrier. The board asked to get more information on what would happen if other cell phone service providers decided to "co-locate" on the tower.
Last summer, when T-Mobile first approached the township about constructing the tower, the proposed tower was on the other side of the parking lot, along the path leading to Glenwood School.
When residents protested, the company pulled the request. Now the re-submitted request has the tower further from the school and the company is going through the process. The Zoning Board of Adjustment will have to grant all three variances before the tower can go up.
The new request is to build the tower away from the walking path and in the location that now currently houses a fence-enclosed dumpster. The tower, the same as the one being debated in Springfield, is the type that is designed to look like a pine tree.
In order to meet the increasing demand for reliable residential coverage, T-Mobile is growing its network across New Jersey, focusing on developing new sites that fit within the community they serve and deliver the greatest service improvements for local families, Jane Builder, T-Mobile’s Northeast Senior Manager of External Affairs, told Patch in June.
“We’ve evaluated potential locations throughout the area where residents would benefit from enhanced wireless coverage,” Builder said at that time. “T-Mobile is committed to providing first-class wireless service, while at the same time, being a good community partner, and we believe we’ve accomplished that. We know that reliable coverage improves safety and quality of life for everyone.”
David Wank, one of residents leading the fight against the cell tower, said he doesn’t buy it.
“Our 'community partner' has not reached out to me or my community,” Wank said after the meeting, in which he asked if it would be possible and appropriate to get an actual measurement from the proposed site to the school. “The community has clearly expressed that we don’t want it here.”
The next hearing will be held October 3, and board members also blocked off more time on October 17, assuming that it will more time because T-Mobile may need to ask for another variance to take up more parking if representatives submit another proposal that adds possible other carriers to the tower.
In between those two meetings, board members said, they would like to see a “balloon test” in which the company would float a balloon 130 feet and they could then study the visibility of the tower from the neighborhood and other parts of town.