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Unapproved Cell Tower Prompts Summonses from Village

Portable cell tower owned by AT&T went up without zoning board approval.

The portable cell tower sits on the property of an Exxon Mobil station on Route 17 south.
The portable cell tower sits on the property of an Exxon Mobil station on Route 17 south.

Officials have issued two summonses to property owners over a cell tower that has been maintained in Ridgewood without any approvals from the village.

The temporary AT&T cell tower stands on wheels adjacent to an Exxon Mobil gas station on Route 17 south, near Franklin Turnpike in Ridgewood. According to a neighborhood resident who earlier this month brought the portable tower to the attention of the village council and zoning board, it has been there for roughly three months.

“I haven’t been able to get any information on this cell tower that just appeared in the village next to the 120-foot cell tower that’s already there,” Diane Haderthauer said during public comments at a Jan. 15 council meeting.

Village officials say the roughly 100-foot tower really did just appear.

Ordinance requires zoning board approval of a new cell tower, and the municipal code prohibits towers rising above 75 feet from being in close proximity to each other. According to Chris Rutishauser, the village engineer, AT&T never went through the required approval process.

He issued a summons each on Jan. 17 to the property owners of the Exxon station and the nearby cell tower for modifications without a site plan approval.

A spokesperson for AT&T did not respond to questions regarding the exact purpose of the temporary tower or the length of time the company expects to maintain it at the site. They did not comment on its installation without zoning board approval.

"AT&T is currently working with the town of Ridgewood to find a permanent location for a new cell site," the spokesperson said. "In the meantime, equipment has been brought to a temporary location to provide cell service for our customers in the area."

In an email, Rutishauser said AT&T was “trying to maintain the 4G service that the other tower can’t support.”

Though officials had little information on the cell tower when the issue came up earlier this month, Heather Mailander, the acting village manager, said the company would be required to seek approvals should the structure be maintained long-term.


[Ed. note: This story was updated to include comment from AT&T.]

The Fly January 26, 2014 at 11:23 PM
Makes no sense whatsoever. Property owners and merchants in the CBD have complained for years about over zealous Village enforcement code officials. But a 100 foot tall cell tower is constructed without permits, and with zero enforcement action taken by the Village until a complaint is received. Makes you wonder if someone could build and occupy an entire structure without the Village ever noticing. Maybe the Village should tell every one of its employees: "see something, say something."
Jon Hendl January 27, 2014 at 07:15 AM
But the structure is still standing, right? If a restaurants serves tainted food, you don't just issue a summons - you shut them down. Perhaps it's just cheaper for ATT to pay the fines than to actually listen.
disgusted January 27, 2014 at 09:02 AM
I was reading on another site where a poster asked if the town has the authority to remove it, I wonder if the village has to petition a judge for an order for an order of removal?
RdgwdGRock January 27, 2014 at 09:41 AM
Jon "Perhaps it's just cheaper for ATT to pay the fines..." You are probably correct. It would be nice if the article mentioned the amount for each the fines.
jp1 January 27, 2014 at 12:14 PM
Why did it take the village engineer so long to issue a summons?
Joe Walton January 27, 2014 at 04:35 PM
After waiting two years for 4G LTE service in Ridgewood this tower is an absolute blessing. Leave it alone.
Marc D January 28, 2014 at 01:56 PM
To a big corporation like ATT towns like Ridgewood are nothing more than a SMALL FLY that needs to be swatted. In the end ATT will prevail.
Joe Walton January 28, 2014 at 11:50 PM
Huh? AT&T is providing outstanding service to tens of thousands of customers in Ridgewood by providing high-speed LTE coverage and placing a portable tower by a gas station on a hair-pin turn where no one lives is a crime? Let me tell you, any local politician that speaks out against this situation or forces AT&T to remove the tower and cut our service back to 4G is going to lose my vote. AT&T is serving our community, can't say the same about some of you.

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