Wednesday, March 2, 2011

3/2/11 article from The Hub

Neighbors credit mayor for cell tower save
New site negotiated for cell tower along parkway

TINTON FALLS — The anxieties that surfaced at the borough’s Zoning Board meetings in recent months may soon subside since Mayor Michael Skudera has brokered a deal to move a controversial proposed cell tower.

Skudera announced last month that he reached a verbal agreement with the N.J. Turnpike Authority to change the site of the proposed T Mobile tower from the grounds of the Church of Christ at 312 Hance Ave. to a site along the Garden State Parkway in Tinton Falls.

“Basically, we’ve been working with the Turnpike Authority since last year talking about this,” Skudera said in an interview last week. “It is something that the Turnpike Authority is happy with, [and] my understanding is T-Mobile is happy with.”

Skudera said the spot that will be allocated for the tower already contains a temporary cell tower.

“It is going to relocate the tower from the church on Hance [avenue] over to an area on the parkway where there is a temporary tower that has been there for about 10 years,” he said. “They are going to make that the permanent location.”

T-Mobile first appeared in front of the borough’s Zoning Board last July at a meeting that was attended by close to 100 residents, most of whom opposed the original location.

The main concern that has been raised in recent months about putting the cell tower in a residential neighborhood is that a proper safety study has not been done about the effects of cell tower radiation.

Soon after the first hearing on the cell tower application, resident Nancy DeSimone formed a group called RACE (Residents Against Cell tower Exploitation) to oppose the proposed tower from being located in her neighborhood.

DeSimone said in an interview last week that she is relieved that the struggle might soon be coming to an end.

“We are relieved and grateful to Mayor Skudera for stepping in,” she said.

DeSimone said that her group has mentioned in the past that the parkway would be a more appropriate place for the tower.

“That was what our fight was, that this cell phone tower did not belong in a residential neighborhood and still could be moved onto the parkway to cover the area,” she said.

“He [Skudera] stepped in and reached out to the commissioner of the Turnpike Authority to say we have a temporary tower in Tinton Falls right out on the parkway, why not raise it and make it permanent,” she added.

While Skudera reached a tentative verbal agreement with all parties, he said he would still meet with the stakeholders to try to iron out a formal agreement.

Michael Laffey, an attorney hired by RACE, said that he is optimistic a resolution will be coming in the near future.

“I do not doubt what the mayor is telling me, but I don’t have confirmation yet that they have dropped the application,” he said in an interview.

“My clients are very happy that the mayor is putting the matter to rest,” he added. “This was a surprise to us; we didn’t know that the mayor was working on it.”

DeSimone was also optimistic that the end of the fight against the tower is near.

“Our attorney did say we should sit tight, we are almost there,” she said. “We are not 100 percent there, we are 90 percent there.

“We just need to hear that T-Mobile has formally withdrawn their application,” she added. “We are anxiously awaiting that good news.”

As of last week, the T-Mobile application had not been withdrawn, according to the Zoning Board Office. Skudera said that T-Mobile wants to ensure that there will be no opposition to the new proposal.

“They want to know if they are going to withdraw from the application that they have with the Zoning Board, that this new location will be all right,” Skudera said. “T-Mobile didn’t want to move until we had an agreement that we are not going to dispute the parkway area.

“What T-Mobile didn’t want was a public fight on the parkway land,” he added. “They didn’twant to go through the same thing again; that was the issue with them.”

Skudera said the Borough Council and administration have endorsed the move.

He also said that there are not a lot of other places in the borough that would work for both T-Mobile and the residents.

“It is something that gets the cell tower away from a residential zone and puts it in a better place — along the parkway — that is better suited for that,” Skudera said.

“This was an area that was best suited for a tower/ The whole area where it is [proposed] now is residential; this was the closest suitable spot on the parkway, and it fits in very nicely.”

Skudera said the parkway spot probably isn’t ideal for T-Mobile, because the carrier will lose some coverage, but he estimated that the site would still allow for about 90 percent coverage.

DeSimone said she is thankful to those who helped her oppose the cell tower.

“We are extremely grateful to Mayor Skudera, the town council, especially [Councilwoman] Nancy Fama, who was a great support to this cause,” she said. “We had some nice contributions toward RACE, and we feel that the mayor saved our house for us,” she added.

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