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Neighborhood Greeting Proposed Cell Tower with Poor Reception

Height, use and bulk variances are requested for cell tower application in a residential neighborhood; residents are worried about health, property values.

About 30 residents of 1st Street, Barnett Place and Mulberry Place gathered in the kitchen of Jennifer Dinoto-Hroncich on Sunday night to formulate a plan to fight a proposed 145-foot cell tower application in their back yard, one they say will significantly harm the lives of residents and their children.

The Ridgewood Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled to hear T-Mobile's application for Block 2904, Lot 2 (better known as the corner of Barnett Place and 1st Street) on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m., one with a slew of height, use, bulk variances with the aim to improve reception and downloading speed for residents of the village.

AT&T announced a merger with T-Mobile for $39 billion on Sunday that requires federal approvals to go through; the deal would make the company the largest wireless carrier in the nation.

"It's absolutely ridiculous," Christen Gross of 557 Barnett Place said of the application on Sunday night, where a petition was passed around. "There are certainly more suitable locations in the village than a tight residential neighborhood."

Gross offered the fire station, police station, Vallieu cemetery, near the train station and other locations that would be a more 'suitable' location and doubted the telecom giant couldn't find a more 'appropriate' locale to boost its coverage.

Residents cite impacted aesthetics, a decline in property value and more importantly, they argue, health impact as reasons for objection.

"It's dangerous to our health," Nancy Streasor of 1st Street said on Sunday. While concerns of cancer are among the largest health issues according to residents, they're also unnerved by the need for the tower to have diesel-powered generators, which they say will pollute the air.

Eric Gross, also an attorney (but not in the land use field) and husband of Christen, will likely be representing the objecting neighbors at the board of adjustment. He says beyond the smell, fumes and sound, given the height proposed, the tower will also likely need lights to alert aircraft should it go up.

"There are also a lot of kids in this neighborhood," wife Christen–also an attorney and former member of the Ridgewood Zoning board–said with newborn baby perched in her arms.

Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Eric said he fears youth could also try to play within the tower grounds, which zoning ordinance requires have six-foot tall fences and a 10-foot-wide buffer. The application notes an eight-foot-high fence with a five-foot-wide buffer.

The tower, per ordinance, can be either fashioned as a tree, a clock tower or flagpole, no higher than 120 feet with setbacks of equal height distance to the neighboring properties. The application calls for a 40.3 foot setback, 105 shorter than ordinance would require for the tower, which would be fashioned as a tree.

"God forbid it ever fell," Eric said Tuesday. "It would probably fall on two houses."

Eric said he's consulted with professional planners and attorneys regarding the case, which he's heard "is a strong case" for neighbors. The residents will have to incur a cost should they retain experts and a planner to refute arguments set forth by T-Mobile representatives. "But the hit on our property values would be exponentially more" should residents not fight it and lose, he said.

"This is Ridgewood, not Newark." Dinoto-Hroncich said, adding residents "need to stick together" in what's likely to be a long, drawn-out process.

The village is also mulling , also prospectivley 145-feet tall. Both towers could have three or more carriers tethered to it. There have also been ongoing talks of a tower at Valleau Cemetary, officials have reported.

If built on East Glen, the village could receive upwards of $100,000 a year in revenue. Neighbors of Lakeview Drive successfully fought a proposal by T-Mobile in 2009.

The applicant's filing attorney, Frank Ferraro of Ferrarro & Stamos LLP in Northvale, NJ was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

The meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday on the third floor in Village Hall.


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