CRANFORD, NJ —  It was a standing room only crowd of more than 100 Cranford and Westfield residents that packed the Cranford Municipal Building Council Chambers Monday night to witness the application hearing for a monopole cell tower at Union County College.

The application submitted to the board by the cell companies calls for a monopole cell tower designed as a “faux tree” with branches reaching 148-feet tall. Three cell companies — Verizon Wireless, T Mobile and AT&T  would each have their own antennas on the pole and their own generator at the ground level. 

Though multiple witnesses were expected to testify, due to time limits only Frank Colasurdo, the architect of the cell tower, was heard from. Colasurdo is a licensed architect in New Jersey who said he has worked on most of the current cell towers in the state. 

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Colasurdo answered questions about a number of concerns.

How loud is it?

When questioned about the potential noise of the cell tower and generators, Colasurdo said that the generators only run in two cases  when there is a power outage in the area and once a week for routine generator testing. Each generator is tested once a week for 45 minutes anytime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., he said. Colasurdo noted that the three generators could all be tested at once, but that doesn’t always happen.

While all three generators are being tested, the anticipated decibel level to the nearest residential property would be 50dB, lower than the 65dB maximum allowed. The anticipated decibel level to the nearest commercial property would be 56dB. Colasurdo compared the anticipated dB level to a working dishwasher and that the sound won't be heard from inside the nearby residential homes.

Even without the generators on, the pole constantly generates 39dB of constant sound, said Colasurdo.

Could it go somewhere else?

Zoning Board members and residents questioned Colasurdo about possible alternate locations for the pole. He answered that another location on the campus that was further away from the homes was considered, but the land is considered “wetlands” and it would be difficult to receive permits to construct the pole there.

Other locations on the campus available would take away parking spaces, an already limited commodity, he said. An alternate location would potentially result in requiring the pole’s height to be extended another 10 feet.

Could it serve another carrier?

Zoning Board member Justin Quinn asked if the pole is capable of carrying a fourth cell service provider. Colasurdo said this is possible, but the pole would either need to extend another 10 feet (to 153 feet) or the fourth carrier would be 10 feet lower (113 feet) than the third antenna. Verizon Wireless' antennas are slated to be at 143 feet while AT&T and T Mobile are at 133 and 123 feet. 

How will it affect the landscape?

Colasurdo testified that the average existing tree height in the proposed area is 120 feet, resulting in 28 feet of the pole extending over the tree canopy. No existing trees are proposed to be removed, he said. Renderings of what the area would look like from nearby streets will be shown at a future meeting, he said.

What’s next?

The next hearing for this application is tentatively set for Monday, Dec. 9 once again at the Cranford Municipal Building Council Chambers. There will be two other applications heard on Dec. 9 before this application hearing resumes.