CHATHAM, NJ - When Verizon Wireless was denied an application to place cell antennas on a PSE&G electrical tower on Pine Street by a 4-3 vote on June 16, 2016, Tony Vivona, chairman of the Chatham Township Zoning Board of Adjustment, said he would be in favor of a permanent cell tower behind Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.
That suggestion became a reality on Wednesday night when the Chatham Township Zoning Board of Adjustment voted, 5-2, to approve a variance use application that will allow T-Mobile and Verizon to build a permanent tower in place of the temporary AT&T Tower behind Gloria Dei located at 300 Shunpike Road.
The move was objected to by Shunpike Road residents Robert Welz and Ron Carella, but supported by members of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.
Voting yes on the variance were board members Greg Borsinger, Vivona, Jon Weston, Rick Williams and Michael Hyland. Voting no were Tina Romano and Dennis Newman.
The galvanized cell tower will be 140 feet tall, with 12 Verizon Wireless antennas placed at a height of 126 feet and nine T-Mobile antennas at 136 feet. The cell tower will be built to accommodate a third-party carrier in the future.
Timothy Kronk, planner for the wireless companies, provided various photographed views of the proposed tower, with computer-generated insertion of the cell tower. He noted that the closest home to the tower was located 420 feet away on Rose Terrace. The tower will be 490 feet away from the closest home on Shunpike Road. Cougar Field and PSE&G electrical corridor also surround the proposed tower site.
In the public portion of the hearing, Welz and Carella argued that it would hurt their property values and that the same public safety issues put forth by Pine Street residents applied in this case as well.
"Pine Street residents had safety concerns and ours are more valid," Welz said. "I'm getting upset talking about this."
But Dr. Bruce Eisenstein, electrical engineer and consultant for the township, countered the talk about the dangers of cell towers by pointing out that a refrigerator puts out much more electrical power than a cell antenna.
"Legally, the board is not allowed to consider (claims that cell towers cause cancer)," Eisenstein said. "it's a moot point."
Dr. Bruce Eisenstein, wireless consultant for Chatham Township, dispelled charges that a cell tower causes cancer because of the energy it produces
The objecting residents did get one concession, an agreement to plant Evergreen trees that will block the view of the new tower.
Brian Danenberg, former treasurer of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, informed the board that the church donates the money it receives from leasing the land to the cell company to a number of charitable causes locally and abroad.