T-Mobile Cell Tower Hearing Postponed
Zoning Board sets next hearing for Dec. 5; will dismiss matter if officials don't attend.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment began a series of hearings with T-Mobile’s representatives in August and was scheduled to continue those hearings Monday night, but announced that the hearing was postponed - again.
The Zoning Board had blocked out time Monday night and again on October 17, but postponed the hearing until Dec. 5.
Zoning Board Chairman Joseph Steinberg directed the board’s attorney to send a letter to T-Mobile counsel letting the company know that if T-Mobile does not make the December hearing, he will ask for the matter to be “dismissed without prejudice.”
“We will not continue to hear the matter after that,” he said.
In August, the board heard from T-Mobile 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 one 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 ball field and 1,300 feet to the school.
The monopole would have nine antennas, which would make the tower reach 133 feet high and is currently proposed with T-Mobile as the sole carrier.
At the August hearing, 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 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 August 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.”