To the Editor:
This Thursday, Sept. 27, the Chatham Township Committee will discuss a “possible ordinance or resolution” for a “temporary T-Mobile cell tower lease at Esternay Field.”
Essentially, the Township Committee is considering whether to allow T-Mobile to remove the upper playground at Esternay Field and, in its place, install a “temporary” T-Mobile cell tower. The 150-ft. cell tower and it’s equipment trailer will look much like the “temporary” cell tower that currently sits next to the Chatham Township Municipal Bldg. In exchange, the Township will receive a fee of approximately $3,000 per month.
I’m writing this letter to ask residents to urge the Chatham Township Committee to reject any additional T-Mobile “temporary” cell tower installations. My reasoning is presented below. If you’re in agreement, please send an email now to Mayor Nicole Hagner at firstname.lastname@example.org letting her know that Chatham Township residents have done enough for T-Mobile and we don’t want anymore “temporary” cell towers.
I’ve provided some of the background information below but first would like to highlight some of the reasons why a T-Mobile cell tower, particularly on park grounds, is a concern:
1. Allowing a cell tower on park grounds sets a precedent which will open the doors to cellular service companies to install equipment in residential areas and in parks and on playgrounds in Chatham Township. Despite tough federal communications legislation favoring cellular service companies, other towns have taken a very rigid approach to cell tower installations.
In these towns, local zoning laws make it illegal to install a new cell tower within 1,500-ft. from a residence, day care or school. They also require the cellular companies to provide documented proof that there’s a need for another tower and that no better sites or alternate set ups would meet that need,
While these local laws may be challenged in the court system, it is in the best interests of Chatham Township residents to avoid being the path of least resistance for cell tower installations. A more rigid approach and laws would help deter encroachment by the cellular service companies and preserve the Norman Rockwell setting that makes Chatham Township a “best town to live in” in NJ and the US.
2. T-Mobile has not been able to prove there’s a need for a third “temporary” cell tower (two have already been installed. See below.) T-Mobile has suggested there will be a potential gap in their service along a one mile stretch on River Road and Springfield but they cannot say how many customers would be impacted by that gap and their concern for those areas is limited to “reliable in-building coverage”. They cannot be sure whether the new Municipal Building cell tower or other existing cell towers will capture calls dropped and they have not provided proof that alternate sites and enhanced facilities on existing towers will not address the gap.
3. Finally, the use of the word “Temporary” is dangerously misleading. There is no assurance that this 150-ft. cellular tower installation will be “temporary”. T-Mobile has suggested this is a “temporary” two-year solution, however, the PSE&G Reliability Project is estimated to take two to four years to completion. T-Mobile’s cell tower requests are for two years with an extension option for a third and fourth year.
Furthermore, PSE&G has not made any agreements or commitments to allow cellular equipment to be installed on their new monopoles once the North Central Reliability Project is complete. If the cellular equipment cannot be installed on the PSE&G monopoles, it is highly likely that this “temporary” accommodation will become a permanent fixture.
Even if PSE&G allows cellular equipment on their new monopoles, T-Mobile would have to incur expense to decommission the “temporary” tower and replace it with a permanent structure on the new monopoles. Essentially, once this “temporary” tower goes up on park grounds, we cannot be sure when it will ever come down.
4. Even if T-Mobile truly experiences a one mile gap in service on River Road and Springfield, why would the Township be beholden to address that gap? The gap is described as potentially losing “reliable in-building coverage”. Given that most households and businesses use landlines for their “in-building” services and the fact that there are many other cellular service providers who are able to meet the needs of River Road and Springfield customers, it is unclear to me why Chatham Township needs to solve this problem for T-Mobile.
A cell tower placed in an actively used sports field, playground and municipal park puts T-Mobile’s interests ahead of Township residents interests. T-Mobile must provide a compelling argument to support this type of exception to the Township’s policies and resident’s interest and, so far, this one mile, in-building gap does not seem to be adequate justification.
In summary, a T-Mobile tower on park grounds sets a dangerous precedent, T-Mobile has not proven their case that there’s a compelling need to address this gap service and there is no assurance that this tower will truly be “temporary.” I hope you will agree that this additional cell tower installation is wrong and will contact the Township Committee before Thursday evening to let them know.
Additional Background Information: As part of the PSE&G North Central Reliability Project, PSE&G is requiring the cellular service companies to remove their communication antennas and related equipment from PSE&G transmission towers while the PSE&G transmission towers are replaced with new monopoles.
This project is expected to take 2 to 4 years to completion. In the meantime, the cellular companies need a place to temporarily house their communications equipment so they can continue providing service. The Chatham Township Committee worked with the cell phone companies to find a suitable alternative location so that Township resident cellular service would not be impacted.
A 150-ft. cellular communications tower was installed next to the Chatham Township Municipal Building. AT&T and T-Mobile are co-located on this tower. T-Mobile requested another two towers and the Chatham Township Committee approved a second tower that was placed in the Colony Pool parking lot on School Avenue. This T-Mobile tower at Esternay would be the third cellular tower accommodation for T-Mobile.
In a prior request by T-Mobile, they noted that this tower is part of a two tower solution to a gap in coverage which will occur once their PSE&G facilities are removed. They noted that the existing cellular facility, on average, processes twenty (20) 911 calls and 3,691 calls per month.
The “temporary” cellular tower that was recently installed next to the Township Municipal Bldg is one part of T-Mobile’s plan to close the expected gap. This Esternay tower would be the second part of their plan. (Evidently the T-Mobile cell tower at Colony addresses a separate gap in coverage.)
In a Board of Adjustment Resolution, it says that, “without the proposed site, there is a gap in coverage of 1.3 miles along River Road from Passaic Street to Central Avenue and of 1 mile along Springfield Avenue from Passaic Street to Central Avenue. Existing residential communities within the area would lose reliable in-building coverage.”