Saturday, July 5, 2008

Cell Tower Climax Amid Allegations of Possible Political Tampering

This Tuesday, July 8th, the matter of Cingular Wireless's application to construct a cellular tower on a property along Lower Shore Road will come to conclusion. The application has been the subject of hearings by Barnegat's Zoning Board for many months.

ET strongly suggests our readers visit Read the open letter posted by our neighbor, Jamie Griffin. Ms. Griffin has fought the good fight. She has the courage of her convictions and put her money (a sizable amount) where her mouth is.

Ms. Griffin's opposition to the cell tower is fact-based. Her primary concern is the good and welfare of her fellow townspeople. Should a perfectly feasible recreation site be devastated when viable alternatives exist? Ms. Griffin says "no." ET agrees.

Cingular needs an extraordinary variance to make this project happen. Ms. Griffin and her numerous supporters fear that this will set a dangerous precedent that might lead to other parcels of land in 08005 being devastated all for suspicious corporate greed.

A thorough reading of Ms. Griffin's letter will raise your eyebrows. She credibly details several irregularities on the part of our township committee. In particular, Ms. Griffin mentions that "great statesman" and current mayor of our single zip code paradise, Jeffrey "The Cigar Store Indian" Melchiondo. She writes: "
Mayor Jeff Melchiondo and the Township Committee's refusal to acknowledge that seven landowners in the area of the proposed site have offered to house the cell tower on their own properties where, in every case, it could be placed well off the road, out of sight and without the need for variances."

ET admits we are not cheerleaders for The Cigar Store Indian. The man who kicked off his mayoralty by declaring 2008 to be "The Year of Cooperation" is probably one of the most uncooperative, acerbic and pusillanimous people ever to hold elected office in 08005. Melchiondo spends taxpayer money like he has been drinking too much "firewater." We don't know what dictionary he favors, but his twisted definition of "cooperation" makes ET wonder if Jeff puts "funny tobacco" in his peace pipe. Saving grace is that his reign of apathy and confusion is on the downhill side of the mountain, thank God.

That unimpeachable statement by Ms. Griffin makes any reasonable person wonder what in the hell is going on here. At the last meeting of the Zoning Board, Ms. Griffin testified under oath. It was her sworn testimony that township officials (whom she did not name) told her "do not waste your time [opposing Cingular's application], this is a done deal." Cingular's attorney did not challenge her during the opportunity for cross examination. Nor did the Zoning Board attorney.

ET asks, how could anybody who is a member of the town's governing body declaratively state a pending application is a "done deal" unless a fix was in? What in the name of all that is righteous is going on here, neighbors?

Equally curious is that the former Zoning Board Chairman tried to testify at the last meeting. The Zoning Board, after advice from their attorney, refused to allow that. Ms. Griffin says that he will speak at Tuesday's meeting. Heaven only knows what will be said.

Cellular communication has become a way of life. ET does not believe Ms. Griffin or her supporters deny that fact. However, that does not mean that a profiteering cellular carrier should be allowed to scar the countryside at will. It does not mean that our town which is pressed for recreational alternatives should allow a site like Lower Shore Road to be sullied with a tower - especially when other landowners have voiced their welcome to have the tower built on their property.

ET understands that certain laws guide the Zoning Board. This is even more so when it comes to communications towers. Nevertheless, the Zoning Board has denied such applications in the past. When another cellular giant wanted to raise a tower smack dab in the middle of the many graves located in the historical Barnegat cemetery, the Board denied the application.

ET believes there might be some hanky-panky in play. We hope that Ms. Griffin will change her mind and tell the public the names of the governmental officials who told her that this application is a "done deal." Once she does that, it would be appropriate for the Ocean County Prosecutor to launch an investigation.

Barnegat has been the venue for a few curious land transactions over the years. Blue roof condominiums, Settlers Landing variances and more. These are not simple cases of landowners making a fair profit. Rather, they are suspect, sweetheart deals that had a lasting and costly impact on every Barnegat taxpayer. And the way business was done might not have been ethical.

Tuesday night's 7:30PM meeting in town hall might just be the hottest ticket in town.