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Verizon offers alternate designs for cell tower in Manalapan

MANALAPAN – An engineer testifying on behalf of Verizon Wireless has proposed two alternate designs for a cellular communications tower the company wants to construct on a residential property at 83 Millhurst Road in Manalapan.

New York SMSA Limited Partnership (Verizon Wireless) has filed an application seeking a use variance and site plan approval in order to construct a 120-foot-tall monopole which would sit in the center of a 50-foot by 50-foot equipment compound Verizon Wireless would construct on the 5.9-acre property.

A use variance is required because the proposed communications use is not permitted in Manalapan’s Rural Agricultural zoning district, which encompasses 83 Millhurst Road.

Testimony on the Verizon Wireless application continued at a special meeting of the Manalapan Zoning Board of Adjustment on Aug. 7.

Responding to questions from attorney Lynne Dunn, who represents Verizon Wireless, engineer James Murawski suggested two options in lieu of a plain monopole.

The first alternate design is a tree pole, which Murawski described as a monopole that is designed to resemble a tree. Artificial branches would begin at a height of 45 feet and the monopole would extend to 130 feet, which is 10 feet taller than the placement of the highest antennas, in order to complete the look of the “tree,” Murawski said.

The second alternate design is a silo that would be constructed of concrete to a height of 95 feet and topped with a fiberglass dome that would extend to a height of 130 feet, according to Murawski.

Murawski said Verizon’s antennas would be placed inside the dome, which is made of radio frequency transparent material.

Zoning board members did not express a preference for the regular monopole, the tree monopole or the silo.

Earlier in the meeting, Matthew Bartlett, a site acquisition professional representing Verizon Wireless, testified that a municipal property on Cannonero Boulevard which had previously been identified and investigated as a possible location for a cell tower instead of the residential parcel at 83 Millhurst Road, will not be made be available by Manalapan.

Christopher Lanna, an environmental consultant retained by Verizon Wireless, testified that the state Department of Environmental Protection has determined there are no wetlands or wetlands transition areas in the portion of the property at 83 Millhurst Road that would be disturbed in order to construct the cell tower and equipment compound.

Lanna said soil tests that were conducted to investigate the presence of historic pesticides on the property produced results that are below accepted standards and are therefore not an issue.

Marianne Walsh, a cultural resources specialist and historical consultant, testified that an archeological investigation of 83 Millhurst Road determined the property has no historical significance.

She said the State Historic Preservation Office determined that if a cell tower was proposed at Manalapan’s Department of Public Works property on Route 522 or at a property at 400 Main St., the structure would intrude on the buffer and/or viewshed of Monmouth Battlefield State Park and would not be permitted at those locations.

Walsh said if a cell tower was proposed at 81 Millhurst Road or at 83 Millhurst Road, the structure would not intrude on the battlefield’s buffer and/or viewshed, nor would it have an adverse impact on the nearby Jamesburg agricultural railroad line, and therefore those sites are acceptable from a historic perspective.

At the beginning of the meeting, attorney Robert Munoz, who represents neighboring property owner Jack Eisner, cross-examined Mark Tinder, an appraisal expert who previously testified that the construction of a cell tower at 83 Millhurst Road would not have an adverse impact on the value of neighboring properties.

Munoz noted that Tinder compared home sales near cell towers at locations in Somerset County and Tinder acknowledged that he did not compare home sales near cell towers at locations in Monmouth County.

Munoz presented what he characterized as an opinion survey in which more than 90 percent of the respondents indicated they would choose not to live near a cell tower or would object to doing so.

Tinder said he relies on his own research as it relates to home sales near cell towers.

As to the presence of a cell tower in a particular area, Tinder said that for some younger homebuyers in today’s market, “it does seem more and more that a lack of service can be a dealbreaker for some people … people said they would not buy a home without reliable service.”

David Stern, a radio frequency engineer representing Verizon Wireless, has said the purpose of the cell tower project is to provide reliable coverage in an area along Main Street and Woodward Road; on Millhurst Road north and south of Main Street; and in new residential developments south of Main Street and Woodward Road.

Testimony and discussion of the Verizon Wireless application is expected to continue at the Aug. 31 meeting of the zoning board.

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