Cell tower proposed in Marlborough
In early 2014 AT&T New Cingular Wireless filed an application for a special use permit to construct a cell tower in Marlborough on private property that is owned by Supervisor Stephen Osborn and his wife Kim Wagner.
The proposal consists of a 150-foot monopole with nine antennas; 18 radio remote units along with all associated equipment and fiber cable; an 11.5-foot by 12-foot equipment shelter and a 5kw diesel emergency backup generator. This will be surrounded by a 60-foot by 60-foot fence on a 100-foot by 100-foot leased parcel.
In a two-page letter to the Planning Board, dated Feb. 5, 2014, Maryanne Terry, site acquisition specialist for AT&T, stated that Osborn’s property was the most ideal and effective location for a tower and claimed “there is no other site within a 2-mile radius of the search ring center.” She wrote that she performed a “thorough review” and ruled out other town-owned properties with the assistance of building inspector Tom Corcoran. In an interview, Corcoran said his discussions with AT&T were not extensive but a discussion of using the Town Hall property was brought up.
Terry also stated that the Middle and High School properties were within the AT&T search area but “due to a general lack of interest on behalf of public schools in New York State to site towers on school grounds, both campuses were rejected as suitable locations for the site.”
In an interview, Marlboro School Superintendent Ray Castellani said AT&T did not contact him about locating a tower on school district property. He added that when Verizon was considering locating a cell tower in town many years ago, the school was receptive to the idea, to the point that a district-owned parcel was seriously considered. He said it failed only because Verizon, at the last minute, requested a far larger amount of land than what was in the original specifications.
School board President Frank Milazzo said, in a phone interview, that he also had not been contacted by AT&T. He acknowledged there are reception issues in and around the schools and that he would not be opposed to the idea of locating a cell tower on school property.
Supervisor Osborn said the intent of this tower is to provide focused cell service to the hamlet of Marlboro, from the high school to the river. He pointed out that he escorted a representative of AT&T around town and suggested they locate on a water tower in the Lattingtown Road area. He said the sewer plant was also suggested but the company indicated both of these sites were not appropriate.
Osborn mentioned that AT&T will let the town fire departments use the tower, free of charge, in order for them to meet the new county communication request. He added that both departments are in favor of the tower.
Chapter 152 of the Town Code entitled ‘Wireless Telecommunications Facilities’ details the requirements for the location and erection of cell towers in town. The Code places the highest priority for tower location on town-owned or -controlled properties and the lowest priority on privately owned land, such as in the RAG-1 (rural agriculture 1 acre) and R-1 (residential 1 acre) zones.
The code, in 152-7 (B), requires that if a parcel is chosen that is not in the highest priority category, “then a detailed explanation must be provided as to why a site of the highest priority was not selected.” In addition, the code stipulates that an applicant who seeks an exception “must satisfactorily demonstrate the reason or reasons why such a permit should be granted for the proposed site and the hardship that would be incurred by the applicant if the permit were not granted for the proposed site.” The next section of the code [152-7 (C)] states that “an applicant may not by-pass sites of a higher priority by stating the site presented is the only site leased or selected.”
There is no documentation in the Planning Board’s AT&T file to show the company performed detailed analyses of high priority town owned properties or if so, were they rejected on technical grounds. There is also no documentation from AT&T that addresses the hardship issue and no evidence in the file to show that AT&T contacted the school district about location on their properties.
The code, in Section 152-7 C, requires that an applicant address the issue of co-location on another company’s tower as a possible option.
“The applicant must explain why co-location is commercially or otherwise impracticable. Agreements between providers limiting or prohibiting co-location shall not be a valid basis for any claim of commercial impracticability or hardship.”
The AT&T file is lacking in information that addresses this code stipulation other than to state that the proposed cell tower on Osborn’s property will fill significant “gaps” in the coverage area. Maryann Terry’s letter discusses only one specific private parcel next to Osborn’s and said it was rejected because it is significantly lower in elevation.
There was a letter in the AT&T file dated Feb. 20, 2014 that was sent by Kimberly Barnashuk, of Phillips Lytle LLP, to Planning Board Chairman Joseph Porco. Attached was a listing of where AT&T co-locations and proposed co-locations are in the area. She characterized theses documents as confidential business information and requested that they be exempt from the Freedom of Information Law, which would make them unavailable for public scrutiny. When the Planning Board file was reviewed a second time by the Southern Ulster Times, Barnashuk’s cover letter and the accompanying cell tower co-location documents were no longer in the file.
AT&T presently has 27 sites of co-location, north to Bailey’s Gap in Highland; as far west as Venturo Road in Plattekill; numerous locations to the south in Wallkill and Newburgh and east in Poughkeepsie and Wappingers Falls. In addition, AT&T has plans for co-locating on eight existing and proposed structures to the east in Poughkeepsie and Wappingers Falls.
Planning Board Chairman Joe Porco said his board has had questions about the AT&T application and expects the public will be asking about the status of the file at the public hearing. If it is not complete, Porco said AT&T will be asked to provide more information to ensure that all concerns have been addressed. The public hearing is scheduled for April 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Hall, 1650 Rt. 9W, Milton.
AT&T indicated they choose sites based on a need to fill coverage gaps and use complex calculations, Radio Frequency Propagation information and mapping to back up their conclusions. The company states that “sites are deemed appropriate only if access is possible, initial environmental due diligence is completed and acceptable and zoning requirements are generally met.” The company added that consideration is also given to the parcel’s natural and man-made features as well as its topography. AT&T affirmed in their application that this proposed cell tower on Osborn’s property complies with “all applicable and permissible local codes.”
The Town Code grants the Planning Board the authority to approve any site on their list of highest to lowest priorities and can do so if they find the site chosen is in the “best interest of the health, safety and welfare of the town and its inhabitants.” The code also gives the Planning Board the discretion to deny an application if it is incomplete, if it fails to meet the requirements of the code, or contains “any false or misleading statement…without further consideration or opportunity for correction. [Sec.152-6 (B) (C).”
Maryanne Terry could not be reached for comment for this article by deadline.
By MARK REYNOLDS