Northfield’s Planning Board gave conditional approval to the construction of a 125-foot radio tower off of Tilton Road at its Thursday meeting.
While variances for height and usage were approved, a site-plan waiver is on hold until Townsquare Media returns to explain the plan for easements across two different lots.
Townsquare station manager Tom McNally testified that the tower would be used as a backup tower for its FM stations, which include 1450 WPG, Cat 107.3, and WSJO.
The main 400-foot tower near the windmills in Atlantic City "is no longer reliable," McNally said. "During the hurricane, the site flooded, we lost our generator, we couldn't get into the city. It was pretty much a nightmare. We were off the air for more than a day."
The tower would also be used for internal communications for the stations, McNally said.
Several public entities such as the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Preparedness would use the tower, McNally said, adding that the tower would not be used for other commercial uses or as a cell tower.
The station's representatives submitted a letter from Atlantic County Emergency Management Director Vince Jones in which Jones endorsed the project.
"This would not only allow the radio station to (stay) on air during a disaster and provide critical information to the public , it would also allow our office to access it," Jones wrote.
The current 50-foot backup tower attached to Northfield City Hall would be demolished, McNally said.
The station and its experts also argued there would be no visual impact from the new tower, which would be 350 feet from Tilton Road and have no lights.
"You're really not going to see the tower until you're far away," McNally said of the proposed structure, which would be built on a vacant site that was once a county stormwater basin behind an office building on 950 Tilton Road. "It's not really very big."
Townsquare argued that radio tower use is permitted in a commercial zone in the city.
Planning Board Chairman Richard Levitt asked if the tower would be a principal use or an accessory use for the site, which is leased from owner Stella Voorhees.
"Accessory uses go on the same lot as the primary use," Levitt said. "It does create problems, you have an office building and actually this antenna would be on the lot with the office building, not the lot with the radio station."
The unique dual-property situation led Levitt and Board Solicitor Norman Zlotnick to suggest giving the project conditional approval while Townsquare works on its easement proposal and site plan.
That part of the proposal will be heard again at a future meeting.
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