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Moorestown Zoning Board Approves Controversial Radio Tower Project

The board voted, 7-0, to allow CBS to construct an auxiliary tower on Church Street.

The existing AM radio tower off Church Street, near the Moorestown-Cinnaminson border. Credit: Rob Scott
The existing AM radio tower off Church Street, near the Moorestown-Cinnaminson border. Credit: Rob Scott
CBS Radio can move forward with plans for an auxiliary tower along the border between Cinnaminson and Moorestown, the Moorestown Zoning Board of Adjustment ruled Tuesday night.

The board voted 7-0 to allow the company to install the tower at 1267 North Church Street in Moorestown. The tower would technically be located in an industrial area in Moorestown, but it would be up against a residential area in Cinnaminson.

The board approved the company’s requests for use variances to install the tower with the understanding the auxiliary tower and the original tower located 350 feet from the auxiliary tower would never be in use simultaneously, and with the understanding CBS wouldn’t allow any other company to use the tower. 

CBS needed the use variances to construct the tower in a Specially Restricted zone (SRI) and to exceed the 45-foot height restriction imposed on buildings in the SRI zone.

The auxiliary tower is to be used as a backup for 1210 WPHT AM radio, but none of the other stations CBS operates in the area.

The auxiliary tower is smaller than the existing tower, and won’t reach the same coverage area as the existing tower, which predates the residential area in Cinnaminson. The tower was constructed in 1940.

Residents from both Cinnaminson and Moorestown raised concerns over health issues during the nearly four-hour meeting Tuesday night.

Dr. Kenneth Foster, a professor in bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, was called upon as an independent witness for the zoning board to analyze and discuss health risks related to AM towers He was not representing the University Tuesday night.

He testified there is no definite connection between AM radio towers and illness caused by radioactivity, classifying some studies that have shown a connection as weak and discredited among the scientific community.

He also said any study that has been done has been conducted across entire countries, and there weren’t enough people in the area to conduct a meaningful study.

“I can see no negative impacts of this application,” Foster said.

He did add that in his opinion, claims made by CBS that they must be a 24-hour operation in order to distribute needed information during emergency management situations was not a major benefit.

“There is a redundancy. Everyone participates in the Emergency Alert System. This particular station isn’t necessary,” Foster said. “It’s useful for them to be on all the time, but it’s not necessary.”

Currently, the station experiences downtime when the existing tower must undergo maintenance. The existence of the auxiliary tower means the station will not experience any down time.

In addition to health concerns, residents expressed dissatisfaction with what they termed a 24-hour, 7-day a week presence of the station in their home. Multiple residents reported being able to hear the station through electrical outlets, household appliances, phones, baby monitors and other devices not normally used for radio broadcast.

It’s a phenomenon CBS can’t explain, Comast and Verizon are unable to solve and residents term a “nuisance.”

Others dispute CBS’s claim that the radio station is a public service. While company representatives pointed to the dissemination of the news as a vital part of their services, residents questioned how much of their broadcast time is spent on Philadelphia Phillies games and disputing the purpose of some of their programs, including the Rush Limbaugh Show, as a public service.

One Cinnaminson woman claimed she wasn’t notified of the proposed project, despite living within 200 feet of the proposed auxiliary tower.

“If everyone in my neighborhood were notified, there would be a lot more people here,” said Jennifer Bottomely, of Cinnaminson. “If we had one more hearing, I could have 50 or 60 people here.”

After Tuesday’s vote, there will be no more hearings.

The Zoning Board will memorialize its decision at its meeting on March 18, after which there will be a 45-day period for members of the public to contest the project moving forward.

Michael Engi March 01, 2014 at 11:41 PM
As I said at the meetings, my concerns were primarily safety issues since most people didn't realize the tower itself actually is the antenna and 50K watts if touched would be fatal depending on the grounding. I wanted CBS to post an additional fence to ensure children would be thoroughly discouraged, since there would be no second chance. It was after the first meeting I attended that other residents stated, on face book, that 15 cases of cancer had been noted on Concord alone, along with the previous owner of my house who died last year, that I became a bit concerned. It proves nothing as you say but I think a reasonable person would have cause for question of a number of cases in a concentrated area that happens to be within feet of a high radiation source. I wanted to find out more and if true, there may be a link between the current tower SAR and any previous test done 74 years ago, if done at all. Since this was primarily farm land back then with no residents, an updated test would seem to be in order to see if the existing tower had an effect on the residential area not previously inhabited. The allowable FCC SAR rate is 1.6 watts as I am sure you are aware, however when was the last test done or was there ever a test done on the populated area. How close will humans be to the new tower of 35K watts? It will be a lot closer to the road and the football field across the street and those who play there. I suggest you find a different route to work, your car may start to glow in the dark. This is the issue of which I could not get an answer. If there is an abnormal cancer rate in the area and a test result showed a higher than normal SAR the FCC would be obligated to investigate. In addition, such agencies as the World Health Organization and OSHA may become involved. I was hoping I could stir enough interest to have this test done in the residential area around the tower site to see where we stand. It is clear that CBS will not pay to have it done. They are only required to fall within the FCC guidelines and tests are not required to renew their license. It's typical of our society not to get involved, politicians stay clear of the topic unless they can get some mileage, yet careful not to rock the political boat and remain silent. You won't see their comments here.
Pete March 02, 2014 at 06:33 PM
The requirements for AM radio transmitters and associated equipment are governed by: Code of Federal Regulations, title 47 - telecommunication » chapter i—federal communications commission » subchapter c—broadcast radio services» part 73--radio broadcast services. I’m certain that within the very long and complicated §73 there are requirements to measure field intensity, erect fences (§73.49) and the like. I’m also certain that CBS will not do any more than the Code requires. § 73.24, Tells me that authorization for a new AM broadcast station or increase in facilities of an existing station in part “(g) That the population within the 1 V/m contour does not exceed 1.0 percent of the population within the 25 mV/m contour: Provided, however, That where the number of persons within the 1 V/m contour is 300 or less the provisions of this paragraph are not applicable. (h) That, in the case of an application for a Class B or Class D station on a clear channel, the proposed station would radiate, during two hours following local sunrise and two hours preceding local sunset, in any direction toward the 0.1 mV/m groundwave contour of a co-channel United States Class A station, no more than the maximum value permitted under the provisions of § 73.187.” For Directional Antennas, § 73.155 requires that the station perform some RF measurements every 24 months or less. The existing antenna is not, as far as I can tell, a directional antenna. Seems that is it is just a simple ¼ wave half dipole (or perhaps longer wavelength to obtain some vertical pattern shape) which is omnidirectional. Can’t find anything in the code for omnidirectional antenna. All of these data are submitted to the FCC and copies are available from any of the various copy services in Washington, DC. Of course, if these reports do not contain field strength data at the closest street or data that can be extrapolated to that distance the information will be useless. The Specific Absorption Rate, SAR, of 1.6 Watts/kilogram you quoted relates only to cell phone antenna radiation. For other general radiation the limit for the general public is 0.08 W/kg. I believe the testing done by CBS would be in terms of field strength in mV/m. I say again that if I lived close to those antennas I would pay a contractor to make field strength measurements. If those data show well below the acceptable exposure limits of ANSI or other guidance then it will cost $50k-$100k in lawyer’s fees to get any satisfaction.
Michael Engi March 02, 2014 at 09:16 PM
Correct, the FCC data is for cell phones, however that is what they sent me when I spoke of AM broadcast specifically. The woman obviously was not a tech person. Maybe I can get the FCC to request a test be done. There are also parts of the reg. that refers to employees exposure time as opposed to others. It all seems to be geared toward the time an employee is exposed to the radiation verses the environment or time other humans may be exposed, in addition to the amount.
Pete March 02, 2014 at 10:28 PM
I’ve spent decades working with both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation and the personnel safety issues associated with them. I’ve spoken to some of the folks in DC that write the exposure limit regulations and the conversations were not comforting. There are no easy answers. Most of the AM broadcast code requirements deal with RF interference with other license holders and not the employees or public exposure safety issues. To get the FCC to sponsor a test will, I think, require reams of cancer data and proof that there is indeed a hot-spot of illness in the vicinity.
Michael Engi March 03, 2014 at 02:58 PM
Maybe I should get back on the radio (k2vet) and tune up on some harmonics of 1210. Just kidding.

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