SCOTCH PLAINS — Neighbors of Scotch Plains’ Hillside Cemetery cheered Wednesday night when the town’s zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously rejected a proposal to build a cell phone tower there.
After months of expert testimony and public opposition, the board concluded the positive aspects of the T-Mobile plan, including improved cellular coverage and transmitting 911 calls, did not outweigh the detriment to the community.
The 125-foot monopole would have been installed in the cemetery bordering Plainfield and Edison, disguised with fake tree branches and visited monthly by a maintenance technician. A group of about 30 neighbors attended meetings throughout the spring and summer to cross-examine the cell company’s experts and argue against putting the tower in a residential neighborhood.
Board members criticized the company’s presentation, noting that while conducting an electronic survey of signal strength in the area, testers did not drive down the cul-de-sacs where most homes are located. They also criticized T-Mobile for not presenting statistics on dropped calls in the area.
“I think that has a devastatingly negative impact on the characteristic of the neighborhood,” board member Tim Livolsi said. “The tree is totally visible, It’s totally artificial, it’s completely out of character.”
Two real estate agents, Jeanmarie Wilson Keenan and Diane Cassitta, spoke separately regarding the drop in property value that could occur as a result of the tower. "I can attest that properties would drop by at least 30 percent," Wilson Keenan said.