Despite empathizing with residents’ concerns over potential health hazards and degradation of property values, the West Windsor Planning Board unanimously voted on October 5 to approve an application for AT&T to construct nine new cell-service antennas on top of the existing 111-foot electric transmission tower on PSE&G’s property west of Rabbit Hill Road.
For nearly 90 minutes public comments erupted into a heated debate on the issue as three residents urged against the approval. The most aggressive challenge came from Joel Zelnick of Rabbit Hill Road. Zelnick, 79, a former teacher and statistician, presented the board with a list of the 77 cell phone towers in the West Windsor area and expressed his concerns over AT&T proposing another when they currently have “two within a four-mile radius of the proposed site.”
He also challenged the testimony of Michael Katra, a young radio frequency engineer from Philadelphia called as a witness by AT&T. “Despite the lack of detailed analysis by an expert witness with a bachelor’s degree who worked for the advocate’s firm, the board took his evidence for justification of its decision. Shouldn’t an expert witness be independent?” he later asked in a statement faxed to the press.
Kathy Castro Giovanni, whose property is behind the site, made an emotional appeal during public comments. For five years she has been unable to sell her house, and she says the cell towers have impacted its attractiveness and even created radio frequency interference.
“If you were in my backyard for a barbecue you couldn’t listen to the radio because there’s no reception,” she said.
The Planning Board will consider another potential hot potato at its meeting on Wednesday, October 12: The Booster Club’s application for athletic field lighting at High School South.