Saturday, April 10, 2010

Open Letter to Joint Land Use Board Member Ken Melamed

Dear Editor:

I read Mr. Ken Melamed's Letter to the Editor on April 8 with interest as I recall attending the hearings in 2007. In fact, I agree with Mr. Melamed to the extent that residents should attend the upcoming Joint Land Use Board (JLUB) hearing. They should also be asking Mr. Melamed and our elected officials the following questions:

1. During the hearings, both variance applicants Verizon and Voicestream, aka T-Mobile, had representation from relevant technical experts. Why did the adjustment board, as it was known back then, seem to be silent when it came to challenging the technical presentations? Did the board not retain a radio expert to challenge the applicants? Will the JLUB have a radio expert on board at the upcoming hearing?

2. Mr. Melamed indicated that if T-Mobile were to return to Dumont, "they would... put equipment on Verizon's tower". How does Mr. Melamed know that T-Mobile is not planning to co-locate at the Sunset site in addition to the proposed Armour site? I am also curious as to how Mr. Melamed is qualified to conclude that the Sunset location provides equivalent cellular coverage area as 75 Armour Place, almost a mile away even though the hearings have not yet started?

3. Mr. Melamed claimed that the Dumont Board of Ed “dragged their heels” resulting in "the zoning board had no choice", presumably denied the variance applications. Why did the adjustment board fail to take leadership and left the BOE effort to languish without an alternative of their own?

4. Was the adjustment board, as it was known back then, aware that cellular carriers had a responsibility to provide coverage to populated areas and that carriers could be penalized by the federal government for repeated failure to comply?

5. Why did Mayor McHale adopt an adversarial stance with the carriers as reported in a February 2009 Record article? Were the town’s coffers too flush to turn away badly needed revenue? Another recent Record article indicated some nearby towns receive annual revenues in excess of $200,000 for leases on municipal property. For Dumont, that would have nearly offset the aid cut by the state this year. Currently the borough receives residual revenue, if any, from Sunset and the same would be for Armour if approved because the site lies on private property. If so, then would it not be in Dumont's best interest to adopt a cooperative stance to try and accommodate all concerned on borough property? How would things be different if cell towers were located just past the border in a neighboring town; residents would see the same eyesores yet the borough earning no revenue? Can we afford to turn T-Mobile and other carriers away again in a mission proven ultimately futile?

6. Mr. Melamed repeatedly uses the term "adjustment board" in present tense. As a board member then and now, is he aware that a referendum was passed in 2008 and adopted in 2009 that merged the boards of zoning board of adjustment and planning into the JLUB? While I applaud Mr. Melamed's service to the board, I hope that this is an oversight as we need active members who are in touch with current events on the board in which they serve.

But there is hope in renewed opportunity. The DPW facility is only feet away from 75 Armour Place. A relocation to borough owned property may be able to achieve win-win by all: Dumont residents will have better cellular coverage and the borough will have recurring revenue. If the borough negotiates wisely, they may also be able to gain a professionally maintained backup facility for our police, fire and DPW radio systems at no cost to the borough. Do we not want robust and reliable radio coverage for our first responders?

As a Dumont resident, I agree with Mr. Melamed that we do not want cell towers all over town. On the other hand, we cannot blindly turn away revenue opportunities that save jobs and lessen the blow of tax increases. We have learned that taking an adversarial stance resulted in a net loss for the town in wasted resources and fees. We must turn out to the April 27 JLUB hearing at 7:30PM in borough hall and demand that attorneys, engineers and planners on both sides put their heads together and come to an agreement that benefits cellular carriers, municipalities and ultimately residents.


Kai Chen
Operator, and