A public hearing for a proposed faux tree cell tower on Porter Farm quickly unraveled when residents and Holmdel Planning Board members questioned possible tower heights .
The tower, which would sit off of Middletown Road, was approved to be built at 130 feet, but when witnesses testified the tower would reach 140 feet and built for possible expansion, board members became frustrated.
"What I want in my mind's eye is to make this as least intrusive as possible," Mayor Patrick Impreveduto said. "I do not want anyone to recognize it. I don't want them to see anything different than they see now."
The cell tower was approved in July 2011 by the Township Committee, which entered into a contract with Verizon to build the tower. Last night's Planning Board meeting was considered a capital review, allowing the board to question expert witnesses and offer final recommendations to township officials.
Verizon witnesses justified an extra 10 feet in height, saying it gives the faux tree a "crown" making it look as close to a pine tree as possible.
"We do think thats a very valuable way to disguise it," Verizon's attorney said. "The branches give it a nice crown to make it look like a tree."
Extending the height in the future gives Verizon the ability to lease higher radio frequencies to other companies if necessary, a move that would have to come back before the Planning Board.
"You're killing me, how high is this tower going to be? We were told 130 feet," Planning Board Chairman Peter Nelson said to the Verizon witnesses. "You're talking yourself out of something here."
Verizon planner William Masters supplied the board with vantage point photos taken from several points in Holmdel of a 130-foot crane placed on the cell tower site.
According to Masters, the tower would be visible as far away as Barrister Drive--1,900 feet away. However, the photos were captioned for a tower at 130 feet, and not marked any taller.
The tower, which would hold twelve antennas made to look like faux tree branches on a steel pole painted brown, would stand almost twice as tall as surrounding trees on the farm according to Verizon architect Frank Colasurdo.
The plans also call for a 12x12 equipment shed which would hold a generator and security system among other pieces of equipment, built into the property of the tower.
More concerns over pavement versus gravel brought up questions of drainage on the property, and the board said it would recommend porous asphalt over gravel to protect the nearby stream on the farm property.
"I'll be taking this back to the [Township] Committee...I am not happy with what I've heard tonight," Impreveduto said.
Township attorneys will now review its contract with Verizon before a newly scheduled April 9 public hearing, when final recommendations will be made.
Because the contract was approved by the Township Committee, the Planning Board does not have the authority to approve is reject the proposal.