CHATHAM, NJ - No one actually got in to see the site, but Chatham Township Board of Adjustment members made their visit nonetheless on Saturday, peering through the chain-link fence to determine the area that AT&T wants to install equipment and 12 cell antennas to the water tower behind 63 Buxton Road.
NJ American Water Company did not show up to unlock the gates, as requested. So all observations were made from the outside.
The public hearing on the application by AT&T will be held Dec. 19 at the township municipal building on Meyersville Road.
"There are no teams here," said Tony Vivona, chairman of the Board of Adjustment. "We're here to get the facts. We've come here to learn, not debate it."
A number of residents unhappy with the proposal came to hear what AT&T had to say. Ed Williams, the construction manager for AT&T, explained how the work would be done. He noted that he had done similar projects on water towers in Livingston and Little Egg Harbor with no problem.
Brad and Katie Weisgerber own a house on Huron Drive, right next to the tower and the fence separating the proposed construction site is a few feet from where neighborhood kids play.
"When we were looking for a house here, we said "okay, there's a water tower here,' that's okay," Katie Weisgerber said. "A cell tower would have made us not buy this house. Our property value will go down immediately."
According to Weisgerber, there is no need for the antennas to be placed in this location. When she researched AT&T's statistics, the reception in the area tower is considered "excellent."
"There is no gap in service here," Weisgerber said. "We have neighbors who have no problem with their AT&T service. This is being built for residents of Summit and New Providence, not us."
Other residents were concerned that once the cell antennas were added to the tower, a noisy generator would come next. Judy Fairweather, AT&T attorney and construction manager Williams, said that no generator is being proposed. The backup for a power outage is a battery that would keep the towers running for three of four hours.
Other residents were unhappy with AT&T coming into their residential neighborhood.
"They are plopping down an industrial business right in the middle of a residential neighborhood," Catherine Porter of Huron Drive said. "It's a shame that we have to fight this fight again. There are studies, even these little bit of suburban woodland, helps preserve the birds. With more industrial stuff and the more people coming in here, the less they are able to do that."