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Resident asks for assistance in ongoing fight against cell tower

Editors’s note: Maria Saputo of Freehold Township presented the following statement to Freehold Township officials during the Nov. 26 meeting of the Township Committee.

By Maria Saputo

I am here again to put on record, on behalf of the concerned citizens of Freehold Township, our objections regarding erecting a 128-foot-tall cell tower at 169 Robertsville Road. This is a residential property abutting township property on wooded wetlands and in the Lake Topanemus watershed, surrounded by residential properties and on a designated Scenic Roadway for which the municipal scenic roadway ordinance declares telecommunications antenna as the first prohibited use.

I am stunned at where we are. I have been told many times that we have an open and
shut case, but over and over again the courts have slapped down the Planning Board
attorney’s legal arguments because of process mishaps and an inability to surface the very
obvious defenses.

We all know the cell tower, which will be visible from miles away, at least 50 to 60 feet above the beautiful tree line, 29 feet from one residential property and within 100 feet of many others, in the midst of scenic roadway and open space ordinances, is inconsistent with the intent and purpose of the master plan and zoning ordinance, and that it will result in a substantial detriment to the public good, but somehow that case was not made to the satisfaction of the courts. How can that be?

T-Mobile was dormant for eight years after the 2011 court order. Curious they only started
pursuing the build after Verizon showed an interest in co-locating. Verizon submitted
its application in 2017, but learned quickly they would not win because this was not a
suitable location for a cell tower, but they took advantage of the inadequacy of the T-
Mobile case. I am sure Verizon is going to pay T-Mobile big bucks for the ability to co-

I understand there is a Petition for Certification before the state Supreme Court to review
the case. A reasonable person would say, “Of course the Supreme Court would hear this case and not let T-Mobile build a cell tower in 2019 based on an application that was submitted in 2007,” but given the history of this case I do not take anything for granted.

Yes, it should be an open and shut case, but as a matter of process, this petition stemmed from the question about issuing the permit, so we missed the step for arguing that the variance is stale.

Given the amount of time that has passed since the original 2007 submission for multiple variances and the series of events that have led us here, I ask for your support in bringing a motion to amend or vacate the 2011 order.

It is no longer equitable that the 2011 order should have prospective application, and there are many reasons justifying relief from the operation of the order. The time elapsed from the original order to when T-Mobile was financially incentivized by Verizon to move forward with building the cell tower is grounds enough and justifies the timing of this motion. There should be no concern that this will be deemed a frivolous lawsuit.

Furthermore, given the history of (alleged) illegal misuse of the property at 169 Robertsville Road, we ask the township to negotiate a purchase or condemnation of this property.

I was here 11 months ago and I asked for two things from the Township Committee: Be proactive and communicate with your constituents. I do not understand why the township
administrator shuts down the involvement of the township officials so that the township
officials do not respond to our concerns.

Our attorney sent a follow-up letter to the township administrator on Nov. 19 and today (Nov. 26) we received a partial response from the Planning Board attorney which totally encapsulates the way we have been treated regarding 169 Robertsville Road over the last 15 years or so.

Considering the incredible history of missteps with the multiple issues regarding 169 Robertsville Road, we contend it is the Planning Board’s responsibility to make the motion to amend or vacate the initial 2011 order against the board. As our representatives, we implore the members of the Township Committee to defend and protect our interests in this community.

If this cell tower is erected, it will result in irreparable devaluation of our homes and the
value of this township. Residents pay a premium in taxes for the Scenic Roadway, Whittier Oaks Park, Opatut Park and other parks and open space ordinances – referred to in township ordinances as the “bucolic landscape.”

How do you place in the middle of this sanctuary a 128-foot-tall chunk of metal that will obstruct our views for many miles? Freehold Township has a duty to maintain the intent and purpose of the master plan and zoning ordinances, and to protect our investments in this community. You must right this wrong at all costs.

Maria Saputo is a resident of Freehold Township.

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