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November 9, 2005 - Suburban Trends - Lincoln Park

COUNCIL SAYS ITS PLANS TO NIX JARDINE LANE CELL TOWER LEASE

By Rebecca Scanlon
Staff Writer

The borough council announced at Monday night’s work session that it will terminate a lease agreement with Omnipoint Communications Inc., blocking the proposal to put a cell tower on top of the water tower on Jardine Lane.  Omnipoint signed a contract with the borough in late March and has been in the application process with the planning board since mid-September.  Several residents have opposed the tower, saying it would be another eyesore in the neighborhood, which already contends with the water tower, and that there could be health risks.

“We’re very pleased with the council’s decision,” Bill Heydorn said after the meeting.  Heydorn is president of the Orchard Neighborhood Association (ONA), the organization of residents opposed to the cell tower.

“And we’re very pleased the council responded to the concerns of the neighbors around the Jardine water tank regarding the Omnipoint cell tower issue.”

Ellen Harrigan, Council president, later said the decision was based solely on the provisions of the contract,” she said, “because the planning board had been diligent…and had Omnipoint been more diligent, this would have proceeded much earlier with the planning board.

“Because of their slowness in getting there, their time ran out and we acted on that,” she said.

The contract was signed on March 25 and allowed 90 days until a decision had to be made by either party as to whether the lease would be terminated.  It also allowed two 45-day extensions, both of which were utilized.

The grace period expired on Oct. 21, and Monday’s meeting was the first time the council has met since then.  The planning board heard testimony from Omnipoint experts at the Sept. 15, Oct. 20 and Nov. 3 meetings.  The application proceedings were not the council’s concern, though, Harrigan said.

“We were dealing with the contract; they (the planning board) were dealing with the project,” she said.  “So our decision was based solely on the contract.”

Stuart Lieberman, attorney for the ONA, said that from a legal standpoint the decision was not extraordinary.  Omnipoint did not meet the requirements set out by the contract in the designated timeframe, he said, and the municipality did just what it was supposed to.

“It just so happens the people I represent are gratified from the decision,” Lieberman said.

The borough stood to make thousands of dollars per month from Omnipoint if the tower was erected and more from any companies that might use the antenna to further their own service.  But the possibility of additional companies turning the tower into a dominant structure was one of the resident’s main concerns.  Approximately 20 residents from the neighborhood attended Monday’s meeting and applauded after Harrigan read the decision.

“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” Perry Mayers, a resident of Jardine Lane, told the council on behalf of himself and his neighbors.  “It is good to know the council responds to residents.”

Omnipoint did not provide a comment by press time.

Copyright 2005 Suburban Trends