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Cell Tower's Fate Now the Zoning Board's Call

November 1, 2007 By:
Jared Shelly, JE Feature
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The heated debate over the potential building of a 130-foot cell-phone tower on the grounds of Shalom Memorial Park and Forest Hills Cemetery has come to a close.

An Oct. 23 meeting marked the third time that the T-Mobile communications company faced off against community opposition; the final decision now rests in the hands of the Zoning Hearing Board of Lower Moreland Township.

Board members noted that they will render a decision no later than 45 days after they receive the transcripts from the court stenographer.

Over the course of three different meetings, men and women against the planned tower -- including clergy, veterans and local residents -- cited such reasons as religious "desecration" of cemetery grounds, decreased property values, the possibility of an eyesore, as well as potentially serious health concerns.

Representatives from T-Mobile contend that health risks are unfounded and that a considerable coverage gap exists in the area, which the company is seeking to rectify. They also said that cell towers had already been built near cemeteries in Lower Merion, Villanova and York, Pa.

Many who oppose the development said that their T-Mobile cell service works just fine in the area. The company insists that people must get improved service so they can reach emergency personnel when needed.

T-Mobile also claims that the proposed site sits on a "separate parcel" of land "91/2 acres" away from any burial sites; however, community activists -- many of whom own plots at one of the two cemeteries or have family buried there -- argue that it's much closer to grave sites than T-Mobile insists and would be visible during visits.

 

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