CHATHAM, NJ - One resident asked AT&T appraiser Mark Tinder if he would buy a home near a cell tower. AT&T attorney Judy Fairweather objected to the question and it was never answered..

But the point had been made at the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting held Thursday night. Residents are asserting that home values will drop if the cell antennas are approved..

Chatham Township residents are opposed to AT&T's plan to install 12 cell antennas to the NJ American Water Tower located behind 63 Buxton Road. AT&T is seeking variances to place the antennas in the residential neighborhood.

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The latest hearing on the issue brought back AT&T sound expert Matt Murello and independent home appariser Tinder.

Murello had, at the board's resquest, had gone back to measure the ambient sound over a 24-hour period near 63 Buxton Road. He reported that there was less noise at 2:30 a.m. and that the proposed cell antenna equipment would meet state noise requirement levels. Murello also said the "hum" of the antenna equipment would not be heard through a second-story open window.

However, Huron Drive resident Brad Weisgerber, whose property abuts the water tower, asked how far the noise from the antennas would travel and Murello answered "50 feet." The equipment is proposed to be placed 5 feet from the property line and Weisgerber pointed out he would hear the noise in his yard.

Weisgerber's objection to the noise generated was backed up at the meeting, which was held in the municipal building on Meyersville Road. At one point, several windows were opened in the meeting room and the noise generated by the cell tower near the building could be heard.

Tinder made the case that home values would not be affected by placing cell antennas on the water tower. Yet, he had no evidence of situations where homes were purchased before and after cell towers were erected.

One example Tinder gave was that there was a home near a cell tower that sold for $10,000 above the list price. Jon Weston, zoning board member, pointed out that it likely meant that it was priced "10,000 below the value" since it was near a cell tower.

Nancy Cook, a realtor for Town & Country who lives on Van Houton near the water tower, said that the reaction from buyers was a negative one when it came to cell antennas. According to Cook, one potential buyer saw the signs objecting to the cell antennas, and she said the buyer noted he would never buy a house near one.

"To the buyers, it's the perceived health risk of living near electrical equipment," Cook said.

The hearing on the variances sought will continue at the Zoning Board of Adjustment's next regular meeting on June 19. Once AT&T completes its expert witness testimony, residents will have a chance to voice their objections to the board.