Zoning board continues hearing on cell tower

First Posted: 11/10/2014

The South Abington Township Zoning Hearing Board heard an application on Oct. 29 for a variance to allow the erection of a Verizon cell tower on Baptist Bible College and Seminary’s property. The hearing was recessed after 2 ½ hours and will resume at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 20 in the South Abington Township Building.

According to plans, the cell tower is proposed for a low-density residential zoning district, within 100 feet of the municipal line between South Abington Township and the Borough of Clarks Green behind the residential Evans Street, located in Clarks Green.

South Abington Township is required to notify all neighbors within 300 feet of a given property, according to South Abington Township Zoning Officer David O’Neill. A letter mailed to properties on South Abington Road, Pauline Drive, Venard Road and Evans Street informed residents of the application.

According to the letter, the purpose of the hearing is, “An appeal by Northeast Pennsylvania SMSA Limited Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless….for a variance to Section 4.101; Table 1, 6.729.2 (b), 6.729.3 (d)(2), 6.729.3 (j), and 6.729.3 (k) of South Abington Township Zoning Ordinances to allow for a wireless communications facility to be built on property owned by Baptist Bible College” and encouraged residents to attend the hearing if they wish to comment on the appeal.

“We regulate land use and if somebody has a variance request to do something that does not have written approval, they are free to do so and it’s up to the zoning hearing board of the township to decide whether or not that is a good use of the property,” said O’Neill.

Witnesses in support of the application that Verizon identified at the Oct. 29 hearing will continue their testimony at the Nov. 20 meeting.

Clarks Green Borough Council President David Rinaldi said multiple Clarks Green residents addressed borough council at the work session Nov. 5 with concerns for the project and that council was informed a petition opposing the cell tower is being circulated in Clarks Green.

Residents in the area are concerned of the project “adversely affecting their property value, unsightliness, noise from operation and maintenance, potential increased health concerns tied to emanating radio waves and destruction of the environment by removing the trees and causing additional storm water runoff or diversion onto neighboring properties,” according to Rinaldi.

Leila Walsh, of Clark Street, located parallel to Evans Street in Clarks Green, is mostly concerned about how the proposed cell tower may negatively affect the aesthetics, value and safety of her property.

“It’s a very quintessential residential area. It’s beautiful over here; that’s why we chose to live here, and it’s still an industrial architecture in a very residential area,” she said and added a lot of the health risks regarding radiation from such towers are still undetermined.

Walsh said her family visits Baptist Bible often and that, “They are great neighbors” and acknowledged it’s the college’s private property and they may do what they want with it but we want them to know that there are residents that border the property that don’t want it.”

Rinaldi said Clarks Green Council will formally address the issue and any appropriate action to be taken by the municipality at the regular Clarks Green Borough Council Meeting Nov. 19.

Residents and members of the community may publicly comment on the proposed building of the cell tower at the South Abington Township Zoning Hearing Board on Nov. 20.

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