CHATHAM, NJ -  It has taken nearly a year to complete the hearing, but the vote on AT&T's proposal to install 12 cell antennas on the NJ American Water Tower on Buxton Road will finally come on Oct. 16.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment heard from the public on Thursday night and discussed the legal ramifications before deciding to put off discussion and its vote until its next meeting on Oct 16.

Board attorney Stephen H. Shaw advised the board that it will have to determine whether the proposed variances by AT&T qualify as "substantial change" to the NJ American Water tower located behind 63 Buxton Road. If not, then the board is bound by the federal law on cellular communication to approve the variances.

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Chatham Township planner Robert A. Michaels said that the variances could be interpreted as "substantial change," and, therefore, gave the board the ability to make a ruling. If the board agrees with this interpretation, then it will have to weigh the pros and cons of the "benefit to the community," in AT&T's plan to close a gap in its coverage.

According to section 6409 (a), which guides interpretation of the law, the addition of cell antennas must be approved as long as they don't "substantially change the dimensions" of a tower. At the previous meeting, it was noted that AT&T had proposed five cabinets in its plan, when 6409 (a) allowed for "four" cabinets. AT&T came back with a revised plan on Thursday to reduce the number of cabinets that will hold computer equipment to four.

In order to grant the variances requested to install the 12 cell antennas in a R-3 residential zone, five affirmative votes from the board are required.

The board consists of chairman Tony Vivona, and members Jon Weston, Thomas Polise, Kathryn Kenny, Richard Williams, William Styple, Glen Nelson and Tina Romano. That number will be reduced to seven since Richard Williams has recused himself.

Robert Michaels, Chatham Township Planner, give his opinion on the proposal, zoning and federal law in videos below

Dr. Bruce Eisenstein, frequency consultant, speaks about the gap in coverage and the law in video below