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Despite Court Order, T-Mobile Tower Rejected Again

West Deptford's zoning board flouts a judge's order to approve the site plans for a T-Mobile cell phone tower.

By court order, it wasn't supposed to go like this.

T-Mobile won a lawsuit in May against the West Deptford zoning board to get variances and waivers for their proposed cell phone tower on Jessup Road. The company even agreed to a settlement with the board that called for approval of the site plans for the project.

Yet, when the vote finally happened on Tuesday night, T-Mobile found its applications denied once again.

At the meeting, the board denied T-Mobile's site plans for the tower, as well as a settlement agreement that required the board to approve both preliminary and final site plans for the project by a vote of 5-2.

This is the third time that the site plans for the cell tower have been denied and the second time they've been denied since state Superior Court Judge Anne McDonnell ruled last year in favor of T-Mobile in a lawsuit against the zoning board.

The vote was a bit surprising to some the residents of Sherwood Estates and Pennfield who came out to voice their displeasure about the proposed tower. Homeowners have rallied against the tower's placement in a residential area. T-Mobile’s plan, as first presented, called for a fenced-in 150-foot tower with antennas that extend six feet above the tip to be placed in what’s now a farm field, which sits directly behind homes in Pennfield and just beyond the treeline from Sherwood Estates.

At the meeting's start, zoning board Solicitor John Alice emphasized that the settlement agreement hammered out between him and T-Mobile attorney Gary Forshner required the board to approve both the preliminary and final site plans. But he also recommended that the zoning board seek to appeal McDonald's ruling in the Appellate Division of Superior Court in the coming months, making the odds of another site plan denial look a bit bleak.

Just a few minutes later, as T-Mobile was setting up its presentation, a few grumbles in the crowd called for the board to “just pass the thing already.”

Despite Alice's recommendation, residents still came out in full force to make their appeals heard. Some residents directed their anger at T-Mobile, while others simply appealed to the board to not go along with the settlement.

David Sileo has been one of the most vocal of the residents in this case. He spoke recently at both township's close-out and reorganization meetings about T-Mobile's plan. On Tuesday night, Sileo gave a presentation to the zoning board on why the tower plans should not be approved.

“You don't have to approve this,” he said to the board as he concluded. “You have to think with your heart.”

Another resident, Mike Amdaloro, brought about a different thought. He pleaded to both sides to think about different options that would keep the case from going to court, but also keep the tower away from the current proposed location.

“Litigation is not a viable option,” he said. “We are looking at the board to find a compromise.”

Nevertheless, the zoning board opted to deny the site plans for T-Mobile once again, a decision that will most certainly drag the matter on into the future. Prior to the vote, Alice said there is a chance T-Mobile could challenge the zoning board's right to an appeal and pursue further legal action if the board voted to deny the site plans.

James Robinson, vice-chairman of the zoning board, was one of the two members who voted to approve the site plans and the settlement. He said that he felt it was the best thing to do to simply approve the settlement and worry about winning an appeal of the lawsuit in the future.

Now, the zoning board's decision puts the ball back into T-Mobile's court and opens up the possibility that further legal action may be pursued. Forshner declined to comment on the result of the vote on Tuesday night.

For more on the T-Mobile cell tower, read:

  • West Deptford Zoning Board Tanks T-Mobile Tower
  • T-Mobile Gets Second Rejection on West Deptford Tower

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Tom Stanton January 09, 2013 at 02:34 PM
I applaud the Zoning Board. I am not up to speed on the plus or minus of having the cell tower at the proposed location. What I am proud of is the Zoning Board standing up to the over bearing long arm of the government through the courts. We are a republic which is ruled by its elected citizens and not by judicial fiat! Although the Zoning Board is not elected, it is made up of a representation of our local citizens who represents our local community's best interest unlike our state and federal ran courts.
David Sileo January 09, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Tom I couldn't agree more. The fact that T Mobiles attorney is coming in here and saying the Judge said you have to vote yes, and the solicitor echoing the same is incredibly insulting and a detriment to our rights. The Judge said "you have to vote yes" so why even have a vote. What if some particulars on the proposal have changed or been altered or new information which has yet to be presented and it goes against code or a board members conviction; You still have to vote Yes!!!??? What is this Syria? Not to mention there were alternates and new members to the zoning board who were not even close to up to speed on this issue; Yet the Judge says " You have to vote Yes!!!!??? What is this Iran? You're kidding me Judge McDonnell???!!! The fact that we are being told we have to do something no matter our conviction has been rammed down our throat since June 10, 2010. And its over!!! Oh yeah, by the way..This is America!!! Tom thanks for your support of the board and what is right. I look forward to bringing you up to speed anytime. Best Dave Sileo
Tammy Romansky January 09, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Congrats to all of the people that have stuck with this since the beginning. I attended one of the very first meetings but was unable to attend further meetings. I still receive e-mails and updates. I appreciate your efforts and time.
Just doing what's right January 13, 2013 at 11:43 AM
Congrats to the zoning board and thank you for standing up to T Mobile and Judge McDonnell. Mr. Sileo....I mirror your feelings and thoughts re: this tower and the process. Well spoken.
John Cokos January 13, 2013 at 01:09 PM
Ditto's on the Planning Board decision...The health effects of that type of RF radiation are not factored in on the equation, thank Bill Clinton on that one...The Electronic Communications Act of 1994 if I'm not mistaken. Who are the stock holders involved here on this deal, I think that there are a lot of individual player's involved in the installation of these cell towers. Wenonah went through a battle with this about 10 yrs ago, got sold out by their elected officials though.
John Cokos January 14, 2013 at 12:59 PM
Read The TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1994...The telecoms spread money all around to grease the passsage of these Towers. A BIG moneymaker with little or no accounting as to how much income they generate. High profit, little or no overhead after the recoup their investment. Almost "Money for Nothing ".
Madeline Fucci January 14, 2013 at 01:17 PM
Unfortunately, the decision came at a price which I cannot elaborate upon at this time.
David Sileo January 14, 2013 at 03:04 PM
So you've been told I'm sure. Was he representing T Mobile or the best interests of the town and residents at the time? I bet the latter This fight is far from over, we won't go away and the entire issue was fraudulent from Night 1. Stand your ground and do what is right, not what misguideded uninformed parties tell you what to do.
Bobby Legros January 15, 2013 at 12:59 PM
I'd like to know if Chintall and Cianfarini have a financial interest in this project. I have heard from a few sources that Ciafarini is heavily invested in this project.
David Sileo January 15, 2013 at 01:59 PM
Now that is just rediculious and silly. Try again.
David Sileo January 15, 2013 at 02:01 PM
Where did you ever come up with that? He is a case where I personally can say without a doubt what your saying is complete fabrication. Again why would you even waste time from your pea brain to say such a thing?
John Cokos January 15, 2013 at 02:17 PM
Let me play the Devil's Advocate on this issue. Everyone who voted in favor of T-Mobile should disclose if they have a financial interest in any aspect of this. I saw this ten years ago in the Wenonah situation, and the issue was never addressed. There are dynamics involved here that play out in W Deptford have played out over and over in other communities. Was this a lump sum payment by T-Moble in lieu of Taxes's ?

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