Updated at 7:45 p.m. Feb. 24
WESTFIELD, NJ — The town of Westfield is considering a proposal that would allow a wireless service company to build a cell tower at an athletic field complex adjacent to Clark in exchange for it also installing additional parking, bathrooms and other amenities there.
Councilman Mark Parmelee presented the plan at Tuesday’s town council meeting during which said there was both a deficit of parking at the Houlihan/Sid Fay Field Complex and also the possibility that AT&T could take its proposal to nearby municipalities if Westfield turns the company down. The field is located at the corner of Westfield Avenue and Lamberts Mill Road across from St. Helen's church.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Parmelee, who chairs the town property committee. “Obviously, we want to receive community feedback on this and help assess whether we want to take advantage of this opportunity, but it certainly is unique.”
AT&T had cited a need to improve service in the southeast section of Westfield, including in the areas of Lamberts Mill Road, Willow Grove Road and Clifton Street, he said.
The proposal would have the cell tower built “adjacent to the far side of the Sid Fay/Houlihan parking lot,” Parmelee said. Officials did not discuss the proposed tower’s height, or dimensions at the meeting, nor was such discussed in an FAQ on the proposal posted to the town’s website.
Town Administrator Jim Gildea said that the first step would be to hire a consultant to issue a request for proposals for the plan.
While two key parts of the proposal would include the addition of bathrooms and an expansion of the parking lot, Gildea said, other provisions recommended in the town’s parks plan could also be included in the design.
“There’s many other things that we could consider: storage facility, security, lighting cameras,” Gildea said. “There're all sorts of things — water bottle filling stations.”
In a statement Wednesday, a spokesman for AT&T said that a cell tower at the field complex would meet the company's “coverage objectives.” Pending the town's release of the RFP, the company did not have specifics to share about what dimensions the tower would need to be to meet those goals.
“As with every proposed site, we work with local leaders to answer any questions they may have. We look forward to responding to the bid once it’s released," said Dale Ingram, the AT&T spokesman. “Our response to that bid would include detailed information about our plans, including the height and design of the tower.”
At the meeting, Parmelee described the area as industrial by noting the location of a PSE&G substation and railroad freight line. Councilman Mark LoGrippo, however, pointed to more human uses, including a school and a church, The Parish Community of Saint Helen.
The town’s FAQ says that the municipality learned in a letter Feb. 5 that AT&T was seeking permission to place a cell tower in the area due to spotty network coverage.
“Based on network monitoring of AT&T's existing network, there currently exists coverage deficiency in the area surrounding Jefferson Elementary School, including areas of West Grove Street, Clifton Street, Summit Avenue, Montauk Drive, Dunham Avenue, Carleton Road, Mohawk Trail, Oneida Drive, North Cottage Place, Tice Place as well residential homes throughout this area,” the town’s statement says.
Parmelee said that the carrier could go to other municipalities and pointed to the construction of a ShopRite in neighboring Garwood — a project that had first been proposed for Westfield and was placed just outside the municipality’s borders.
“We were stuck with the traffic issues that we were concerned about in the first place, and yet we got no tax benefit on the back end,” he said.
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