Saturday, September 15, 2007

BoS Meeting 9/6/2007 - Cell Tower Discussion

Because this report is lengthy, we have elected to post it separately from the main meeting notes. The cell tower discussion was reported on by JD Malone (Express Times) and Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call) in the September 7th editions of their newspapers.

Hoff summarized the T-Mobile cell tower agenda item. He said that it’s been before the Finance Committee. T-Mobile has offered a $15,000 annual contribution (in the form of monthly rent), space on the tower for an EMS repeater, lights to light the back of the old Laneco building, and 20% of co-location (additional cell providers using the same tower) fees will be paid to the Township. Hoff asked the Supervisors if they wanted to go forward with T-Mobile. A motion to go forward was made by Ackerman and seconded by Miller. Discussion followed.

Howell questioned the legality of the Board approval to enter into a $15,000 contract to lease property (2500 sq ft) when T-Mobile has “no right at this point to install or construct a cell tower.” Howell questioned the details about noise abatement and environmental issues. He stated that noise abatement is not in our current ordinance. Howell said, too, that the lease has holes that need to be addressed and said that he provided the Supervisors with a copy of Kline’s email from April where Kline said that site selection is the most important aspect and that the contract is not site specific and does not meet the ordinance. Howell felt that entering into the contract would compromise the Zoning Hearing Board’s authority since they are the only ones who can grant the special exception needed. Howell felt that the Board was “putting the cart before the horse” in considering the motion.

Kline explained that the “site lease with an option” has a $500 one year option while T-Mobile gets FCC approval, a zoning special exception, and land development approval. T-Mobile also has an option for another $500 one year renewal to get everything done. If, after they get everything and determine that it’s economically feasible, then the contract gives T-Mobile a five year lease for $1250/mth with four 5-year renewals at no increase in rent to the Township. The tower would be 150 feet high and is a permitted special exception use in the REM district. T-Mobile would have to meet all the requirements of the zoning ordinance.

A Board vote to go ahead with the contract provided by T-Mobile would mean that once T-Mobile got all of its approvals, the Township would be unable to say “no.” Howell asked Kline if the tower site complies with zoning now and Kline said that the minimum set-back must be one times the height of the tower and since its five feet from the property line, it does not comply.

Howell asked that the three pages of zoning ordinance be included in any document prepared. He noted too, that the lease presented makes many demands on the Township including maintenance of the roads leading to the tower.

Howell said that that Glover Road tower is a mess. He wondered what ordinance it was permitted under and how Hale Built was allowed to erect a building so close to it. There is supposed to be a fall down zone at least the height of the tower in every direction.

Ackerman said that the reason for his motion was so that Forks could tell T-Mobile what “we want” and if they don’t agree, then it’s over.

Miller said that the parking lot of the old Laneco/Giant is to come to the Township in the plan approved for One-Up LLC. Howell said that the land is for sale and it will be unlikely that the current owner will agree now to give the land to the Township.

Susan Bennett (resident) said that Forks has a beautiful park and for a “few bucks” this shouldn’t be allowed. She asked, “Why would you visualize having a tower like that in a beautiful recreation park?” (applause)

Dean Turner (Planning Commission) likened Miller’s “we’re going to get that land” to Strausser’s justification for cutting the trees – that he was “going to get the land.” (applause)

David Billings (candidate for Supervisor) asked if the location was set by T-Mobile or if the Zoning Hearing Board or the Planning Commission determine the site? Kline said that the location is on the site plan. Billings added that the ordinance stipulates that T-Mobile must justify why it cannot locate on an existing tower and he suggested that the Township recommend another location.

Reta Howell (resident and wife of Supervisor David Howell) said that she was giving her personal opinion - that the Community Park and Arboretum is a jewel and it’s incomprehensible to her that a monstrosity should go there. She asked the Board if they wanted to remembered for voting for a “blight on the landscape” or for having the courage to vote “no.” (applause)

Jim Wideman (candidate for Supervisor) questioned the square footage since the ordinance specifies 750 square feet. Howell responded that he is baffled by this also but that it’s a question of the “compound.” This plan is for a 20’ x 10’ compound. He felt that a co-user would not find that to be sufficient space. Wideman said that if this $500 option is signed, that the Township would be locked into the $15,000 rental figure. He said that he is not happy with the location or the rental offered and that signing it makes no business sense.

Hoff asked the Board if they should move forward or not?

Nicholas said that she has not been in the negotiations and was “up in the air” on this. She thought that the Board could give directions on what they want to T-Mobile and that would be the only thing she is voting on. She said it would giver her extra time to come to a decision and to get “influence” from people on what they want her to do.

Howell said that a yes vote would mean that a cell tower here would be approved under certain conditions and a no vote would mean, that it could not be built here under any conditions. (applause) Nicholas said that he should “not to put words” in her mouth. Kline said that a positive vote would mean that the Board would agree, under certain circumstances, to a cell tower in the park. (applause)

Bill Wallace (candidate for Northampton County Council said that his son plays soccer and last year at a tournament in the Forks park, he found a dead bird in the parking lot – a hermit thrush – that probably hit one of the park light poles. He said that our park is an oasis “for millions of birds who migrate at night.” And, when it’s foggy at night, the migrating birds cannot see obstructions.

Howell, citing Roberts Rules of Order, called for a roll call vote. Ackerman YES, Nicholas NO, Miller YES, Howell NO, Hoff NO. The cell tower was defeated in a 2:3 vote. (resounding applause)

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