Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment Begins Hearing on T-Mobile Cell Tower Application

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Radio frequency engineer Ben Shidfar shows the proposed site of a telecommunications pole for T-Mobile network. Credits: Patricia Harris
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MILLBURN, NJ - Millburn’s Zoning Board of Adjustment began hearings last night on an application from T-Mobile Northeast to install a telecommunications pole on Morris Turnpike.

The single pole, which would be 130 feet tall and hold nine antennae, would be located on a commercial property at 830 Morris Turnpike, just south of Benihana restaurant.

The board asked T-Mobile representatives to arrange for a crane showing the height of the proposed pole to be put up. That demonstration will take place on Wednesday, March 21, from noon to 7 p.m.

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A snow date has been set for the following Wednesday, March 28, during the same times. 

The first witness to testify for T-Mobile was Ben Shidfar of Purecon Solutions, a radio frequency engineer. He had previously testified before the board on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) emissions compliance.

Shidfar said T-Mobile provides a wireless network for cell phones that allows them to work in homes as well as cars. His job is to identify places where users might experience gaps in service and make recommendations about where additional antennae should be placed to eliminate those gaps, according to the engineer.

Using maps and diagrams, Shidfar showed he had found an unacceptable level of service in the residential area surrounding the proposed pole. That area extends about a mile and a half into neighborhoods northeast and northwest of the site.

“If six in 100 customers are not getting service, that’s not an acceptable level of reliability,” he said.

In answer to questions from board members, Shidfar indicated there are no opportunities for co-locating their antennae with those of other network providers.

Shidfar also explained to the board that T-Mobile has considered other sites for their antenna over the past decade. Some of those were rejected by the community and others were ruled out by radiofrequency engineers working for the company.

The engineer said T-Mobile is seeking to comply with FCC regulations that require carriers to provide seamless, ubiquitous service. This is especially important to providing an enhanced 9-1-1 system in which customers needing emergency services can be located. Using coordinates, emergency workers now can find those customers within 50 feet of their location, he said.   

At present T-Mobile has three other installations in the township, according to Shidfar. One is on JFK Parkway, one is in the steeple of Community Congregational Church on Hartshorn Drive and a third is located at 340 Millburn Ave., near Main Street.

Shidfar said he is proposing a 130 foot pole because trees around the site are 85 feet tall.

One resident questioned if that height is necessary and asked if an analysis could be done for a lower pole. Shidfar promised to come back with that information.

That same resident asked that an actual drive test be conducted in the area surrounding the proposed pole.

“I want empirical evidence there’s a gap,” he said.

The next hearing on the application will be Monday, May 7. T-Mobile plans to bring in a site acquisition expert and a planner, in addition to Shidfar.

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