Cell tower opponents to gather

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:22

    Grassroots movement builds momentum, By Beth Kalet Vernon — Pat Distasi says he’s expecting about 200 people at a special meeting he’s called to talk about a proposed cell phone tower in his neighborhood. He’s against the tower and in the few weeks since he first got notice of the plan by Verizon Wireless he’s mobilized a lot of like-minded residents, Distasi says. His group, Glenwood Coalition Against Cell Towers — Glenwood ACTs — is holding an open forum Wednesday, April 29 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Rolling Hills School at 60 Sammis Road. “What started out as a grassroots, 4 o’clock in the afternoon, hey we want to do this ...” has become a strong movement opposed to the construction of a 140-foot cell tower and an 11- by 30-foot unmanned equipment shelter in a residential neighborhood. Since he made his contact information known in late March, Distasi said “I average 20 calls a night.” His answering machine is full. “The e-mails come, but people really want to call.” As he’s gathered steam in his efforts to fight the tower, Distasi said he’s met with Vernon’s engineer and zoning officials to understand the ordinances now on the books. To get permission for the tower’s construction, Verizon and the homeowner who wants it on his property need a number of variances. At the April 29 meeting, Distasi will give a 45-minute Power Point presentation he promises will be “extremely, extremely informative.” And, on hand that evening will be lawyer Ira E. Weiner, a specialist in land use and zoning law, who is lead counsel for Glenwood ACTs. Weiner will answer questions about the issues involved in the proposal. The tower would sit less than 200 feet from Distasi’s own driveway on Silver Spruce Drive and it would likely drive down his property value. His site: glenwoodact.webs.com Next up The issue comes before Vernon’s Land Use Board on May 13, in a public hearing at the Municipal Building. At that meeting, experts from Verizon will give testimony about their proposal, the Board “will cross-examine the experts; and the public will have a chance to ask questions of the experts,” said Lou Kneip, the township engineer. Verizon’s application had “previously been deemed complete,” said Kneip. It’s now his job to review the plans and write a report for the board that will be ready for public viewing by May 8. To read that document or the proposal on file, residents must file an Open Public Records request, but they will have immediate access to the files, Kneip said. The municipal building is open from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Some history This is not the first time a cell tower has been proposed for Vernon, but it is the most controversial, Kneip said. Two previous proposals failed, both in the last 10 years. One about five years ago would have erected a tower along Route 94 near the medical arts building; the other about eight years ago near the Alpine House. Both saw objections from neighbors that helped knock them down.