As the township moves forward with putting together an ordinance concerning the building of cell towers, township planner Scarlett Doyle said it is important that all conditions in the ordinance be explicit.
The ordinance, which has not yet been introduced by the township council, was discussed at Monday’s planning board meeting.
Doyle said conditional use requirements in an ordinance are supposed to be very specific, able to be answered by a yes or no.
“To say it will improve the site or won’t, won’t affect the neighborhood, those things are necessary for testimony,” she said. “If the board finds it does substantially impair [the neighborhood], you’re at the wrong board and should be at the zoning board.”
“In a conditional use, you must satisfy every single condition to be a planning board application,” she added. “I cannot tell by looking at this ordinance which board it should go to because these are not definitive yes or no answers.”
In addition, Doyle said, she is also concerned about the issue of co-location. The ordinance requires site plan approval for co-location on a tower, but not for co-location on a roof.
“The law permits co-location on existing facilities without a permit and without site plan review,” she said. “But if there are antennas on a roof, does that entire roof become a facility for unfettered co-location?”
Board member Barbara Kane said she thinks that needs to be considered because she would hate to see one antenna on a roof suddenly become 50 antennas.
“I think the clearer you make this, the easier it is for the township to have guidelines for antennas,” she said. “It also helps us not to have all these antennas all over the place so the town starts to look like a city.”
In addition to these concerns, Bridgewater Township Mayor Dan Hayes said he would like to see the ordinance contain the requirement for the applicant to consider alternative technologies instead of a cell tower.
“The ordinance seems to address wireless, and it seems to consider solutions that are towers, and when we ask applicants to look over alternatives, we usually ask about alternative sites,” he said. “I think we should ask for consideration of alternative technologies like the distributed antenna systems or something similar.”
When an applicant comes before the board, Hayes said, he would like to see considerations for both alternative locations and alternative systems.
According to township engineer Robert Bogart, the next step is for the ordinance, with the incorporation of the suggestions from the planning board, to be brought before the township council for an introduction. After that, it will go back to the planning board for consideration before returning to the council for possible approval.
The township is hoping to approve the ordinance before the end of the year.