Freehold Township fails residents in long-standing cell tower battle

By Ron Saputo

Unfortunately, it appears we are at the end of the road in our fight to prevent the construction of a 128-foot-tall cell tower on residential property at 169 Robertsville Road in Freehold Township.

Township Administrator Peter Valesi authorized the granting of a work permit to T-Mobile to build the tower, despite the fact it will be built on residential property on a scenic road in a watershed and in the middle of our beautiful neighborhood.

There were plenty of viable commercial location alternatives that were not fully explored.

We have repeatedly asked Mr. Valesi to do the right thing to protect the interests of those in the area and to prevent damage to the delicate balance of the surrounding environment.

He had the option to file a motion to modify or vacate the 2011 order and/or to proceed with condemning the property but, incredibly, he refused to do so, alleging that both had little chance of success. Why wasn’t the motion filed in the first instance or filed after the court in its decision wondered why they hadn’t filed it? Whoever heard of such inaction?

Despite my repeated pleas to do the right thing considering Freehold Township’s inability to appropriately represent this case and to keep the property at 169 Robertsville Road in check for 15 years, Mr. Valesi refused to reconsider his position.

What does it say about our elected officials when we attend township meetings, ask them to comment on our objections and they hide behind the mask of “the matter is in litigation, we cannot comment.”

Then, after the litigation is over, they continue to be non-responsive to us. How do we allow our elected officials to get away with this? How do we stop it? Why do we continue to elect them if they refuse to speak with us and address our concerns or fight hard on our behalf?

How does Freehold Township come to this decision after what the township has put us through over the last 15 years or so with the non-compliance of the property? Why doesn’t anything ever make sense with respect to this property?

Why can’t anything ever be done correctly when it comes to this property? The simplest of things like not sending the property owner a next day registered mail letter comes to mind. In that case, Freehold Township had to argue giving proper notice in court and lost.

Why are “road blocks” and negative thoughts immediately put up by township officials when they are asked to do something for the benefit of the community? Where is the creative thinking to get things done?

Why did it have to take the grandiose efforts of neighbors surrounding this property to finally get the township to enforce compliance after gross misuse of the property and damage to the environment after more than a decade of looking the other way and letting compliance slide? Where is the proactiveness?

How is it that this residential property is still allowed to operate as a commercial landscaping operation?

Just a few weeks ago, how did this property get reclassified as a farm and how was it granted the reduced real estate tax rates? Not a single neighbor has ever seen a farm operation there. Never.

What is it with Freehold Township’s indifference to the neighbors surrounding 169 Robertsville Road that we are continually made the guinea pigs for the shenanigans at that property?

How has this property not already been condemned after countless complaints over 15 years of (various alleged illegal operations).

How does this property get rewarded with a lucrative cell tower lease and how are they allowed to further damage the environment? Why all of a sudden is Freehold Township shutting us down when there is more to fight?

What about the depreciation involved in our life’s investment – our homes – when the cell tower goes up? Who is going to reimburse us for this? Who is going to step up and willingly offer to reduce our real estate taxes now due to the depreciated home and property values surrounding the cell tower?

Does anyone really think someone at the township will volunteer for this assignment? Who is going to repair the damage to the Topanemus Watershed and the surrounding environment?

Now we are asking Freehold Township to get T-Mobile to “disguise” the cell tower as a pine tree. Let’s see if they can get that done.

Again, why doesn’t anything ever make sense with respect to this property at 169 Robertsville Road? Perhaps some day we will find out.

Ron Saputo is a resident of Freehold Township.