Neighbors express concern
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
A proposal to construct a 180-foot cell phone tower on a hillside on Route 9 near Route 301 drew concerned neighbors to a Philipstown Zoning Board of Appeals on June 12 and led the board to schedule a balloon test for June 23 to gauge the visual effect of a tower on the landscape.
Weather permitting, the four-hour test was scheduled for 8 a.m. at 2700 Route 9, located behind the Magazzino art space. Under Philipstown’s zoning code, cell towers require a special-use permit from the ZBA.
Chairman Robert Dee noted such reviews take months.
Homeland Towers, the firm that brought the proposal to the ZBA, in 2014 proposed a tower for a site about a third of a mile away at the Philipstown recycling center on Lane Gate Road. After neighbors and others objected, the Town Board took no action. (The voluminous attachments to the ZBA agenda included a January 2015 letter from Vincent Xavier of Homeland Towers to Supervisor Richard Shea: “We will take the lack of response from you as being one of non-interest.”)
Robert Gaudioso, an attorney for the new project, said the tower would primarily be for Verizon but could serve three additional wireless companies, as well as Putnam County emergency services and other first responders.
Based on photos submitted by Homeland Towers, the top of the tower would project above the tree line on the slope above Vineyard Road. That prompted ZBA Member Vincent Cestone to say he’d like to see plan for “visual abatement” and hear whether other technologies besides a tower could eliminate dead spots.
Dee sounded skeptical of the need. “How can you prove to me there’s a lack of coverage?” he asked, noting there is another tower within half a mile.
Gaudioso said planners did not rely on consumer complaints about dead spots but instead use a standard industry calculation to determine the number of towers needed in a given area.
Philipstown Area Towers
North Highlands: 3315 Albany Post Road
Cold Spring: Grey Rock Road
Cold Spring: Fahnestock
Travis Corners: 1924 Route 9
West Point: Goethals Trail
West Point: 700 Mills Road
Cold Spring: Vineyard Road (proposed)
Nelsonville: 15 Rockledge Road (proposed)
In May, Xavier of Homeland Towers said in a letter to the ZBA that two towers in the vicinity carry Verizon but, because of the terrain, cannot provide wider coverage.
Dee noted that the lengthy application submitted by Homeland Towers appeared place the tower much farther from a neighboring home than it would actually be. The tower representatives agreed to consult town engineer Ron Gainer.
The wooded site, once part of the Cyberchron property, is zoned office-commercial and owned by Christopher Fadden of CF Diversified Corp., who would lease the land to Homeland Towers.
Two residents of nearby Round Hill Road, Cali and Roger Gorevic, expressed concern for the wildlife and environment if the tower is installed. Cali Gorevic said that cell towers have been linked to forest fires.
Roger Gorevic said he and others “are worried about the endangered species. We’re worried about turtles.”
Homeland Towers was prepared for that objection. A study conducted for the FCC and reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the tower would have no effect on the threatened bog turtle “as no suitable habitat for this species was found within or near the project area.” At the same time, the study found the tower “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” an endangered Indiana bat and the threatened northern long-eared bat. Fish and Wildlife cautioned that if circumstances warranted, it would reconsider its acceptance.
Roger Gorevic also raised the possibility of the tower interfering with bird migration. He mentioned a hawk that lived near his house for years until someone erected a fence that snared and killed it. “This is what goes on,” with seemingly routine changes, he said. “We have to be careful to protect our environment and very careful about what’s a priority.”
Dee said the ZBA would continue its deliberations at its July 10 meeting.