Board of Adjustment Examines Potential New Cell Tower Site On Sanford Road

At the July 27, 2006 meeting of the Board of Adjustment, testimony continued pertaining to the Cingular cell tower application on Hewitt Road.  Carried forward from November 2005 and January and April, 2006, the Board listened as Cingular’s expert presented several renditions of the antennae placement on the tower and demonstrated how coverage would be affected.  Cingular’s goal is to increase coverage for the Route 519 corridor.  Testimony showed that a tower 110 feet tall would provide sufficient coverage.  If the tower were ten feet taller, at 120 feet, there would be an additional 1/2 mile coverage to the both the northeast and the northwest.

A second witness presented simulated pictures of the tower as viewed from several different locations.  Pictures showed what the tower would look like from County Route 519, looking north from both Sanford Road and Strimples Mill Road.  Each set of pictures was depicted with a different style tower.   A 120-foot tower with the antennae on a platform, a tower with the antennae mounted in groups of six set flush to the tower,  a windmill with lattice work, and lastly as a 120-foot silo.

But when it seemed that testimony and comment had finished on the Hewitt Road site, Chairman Chuck Cline asked the second witness to discuss the possibility of a completely different site on Sanford Road.  Cingular has not applied for this site but testimony was given in January, April and again on Thursday night.  Block 31, Lot 11 is about a mile from the Hewitt Road site, on a 90-degree corner in the road.  It is an under-sized lot (1.07 acres in the 3-acre zone) and presently houses a GPU substation along the power line.  It is owned by First Energy.  Chairman Cline asked “In the best interest of Delaware Township and from a planning perspective which site is more appropriate?”  He stated that Route 519 gets three times the traffic that Sanford Rd does and as such, more drivers would see a tower at the Hewitt Road site.  The Cingular expert pointed out that the Sanford Road GPU site is in the middle of a residential area and at least ten residences would be affected.  Chairman Cline and Betsy McKenzie, Delaware Township’s Professional Planner, both agreed that one of Delaware Township’s goals is to protect its viewsheds.  Board member Ron Bond said that a tower placed at the Sanford Road GPU site would be visible from the recently preserved Pauch farm on Route 523.  Mr. Cline thought that this location was too far from the site but raised the point that the tower may be visible from Route 604 west of the Covered Bridge.

When the meeting was opened to the public, residents asked if Cingular had taken into consideration the lands surrounding both sites.  Both sites are near preserved land, but the Sanford Road site is contiguous to more preserved land and overlooks the Rosemont Valley.  Delaware Township taxpayers, the county and state have spent a lot of money and time preserving viewsheds and farms and attention should be given to this valuable investment.  Chairman Cline then asked that Cingular take photos looking toward the GPU site from Route 519, Route 604 and from the preserved lands surrounding the site.The public also asked that Cingular determine how many homeowners would be affected by the view of the tower in both locations.  Mr. Cline requested that Cingular provide this information as well.  Tom Michalenko, a neighbor of the Hewitt Road site, was not pleased.  He pointed out that he would be able to see the tower from his house and that it was very close to his property.  The witness from Cingular pointed out that according to the map it would be 800 feet from the tower to the middle of his property.  There was some discussion as to the accuracy of this distance and location of the Michalenko residence.  Chairman Cline asked Mr. Michalenko if Cingular had permission to take pictures from his property looking toward the proposed site on Hewitt Road.  Michalenko consented to the request and Cingular was asked to comply.

The Post has reviewed Delaware Township’s cell tower ordinance and it is clear that the GPU site raises additional questions as to compliance.  Both sites would require a “Use Variance” but the Sanford Road site would require additional variances due to the size of the lot and location of the various GPU structures.  At least three acres is required by ordinance.  Lot line setbacks are stricter for cell towers and the lot’s dimensions would require yet another variance.  Finally, the location of the GPU substation structures presents further setback questions.

The next meeting of the Board of Adjustment to continue this hearing has been set for August 29th at 7:30pm.