Anyone Want a Cell Tower?

Discussion in Nelsonville expands to new site

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Nelsonville’s cell tower debate expanded onto new ground — literally — in late October when village officials informally suggested putting it on a relatively flat site in the Nelsonville woods, rather than the mountainous parcel officially under review.

Homeland Towers, which represents cell phone companies such as Verizon, has asked the village for approval to construct a tower on a 9.6-acre site on a steep hillside above the Cold Spring Cemetery. That project, near Rockledge Drive and Moffatt Road, is being considered by the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board, which scheduled a joint public hearing for Wednesday, Nov. 15.

The Nelsonville Village Board has suggested using 4 acres of village-owned land in this area, off Cedar Street, as a cell tower site. The property is bordered by Secor Street. (Photo by L.S. Armstrong)

The Rockledge plans provoked strong opposition led by the grassroots Save the Cold Spring Cemetery Committee organized by Fran O’Neill, wife of Nelsonville Mayor Bill O’Neill. The O’Neills live on Moffatt Road, although whether the cell tower would affect their view is unclear. Doug Logan, owner of the proposed tower site, runs the Cold Spring Cemetery.

Given the ongoing debate, the Village Board proposed an alternative location: a roughly hexagonal, 4-acre, wooded tract owned by the village behind the Philipstown Volunteer Ambulance Corps headquarters and American Legion building on Cedar Street. The board scheduled a public meeting for Wednesday, Nov. 8, to discuss the idea.

A tale of two sites

If the vision of a 110-foot tower overlooking an historic cemetery proved contentious, so too could a plan to put it in the Nelsonville woods.

The outline shows the 4-acre parcel owned by Nelsonville (38-17-1-6) that village officials have suggested as an alternative site for the cell tower proposed for Rockledge Drive. (Map prepared by Village of Nelsonville)

In an e-mail, Dave McCarthy, who lives on Main Street near the proposed site, called the suggestion “troubling for a few reasons: It’s close to two cemeteries, it floods and is part of an aquifer; it’s next to the Nelsonville Nature Preserve; and, worst of all, it’s as close as you can get in Nelsonville to the Haldane Elementary School.”

Well-traveled footpaths wind through the woods, which get boggy in spots, and two graveyards, one dating from the latter 1700s and the other from the mid-1800s, are nearby.

Philipstown Tower

A second cell tower proposed by Homeland Towers for Vineyard Road, near the intersection of Route 9 and Route 301, is being scrutinized by the Philipstown Zoning Board of Appeals and its Conservation Board. The two panels have scheduled a joint public hearing for Monday, Nov. 13, at 7:30 p.m. at the Philipstown Recreation Center, Garrison.

“I fully expect there’s going to be substantial opposition, which is fine,” Mayor O’Neill said on Tuesday (Oct. 31).

The Village Board gave Homeland Towers permission to evaluate the Cedar Street parcel because it wants “to make available a site which from an aesthetic perspective is more acceptable to this community than the Rockledge site,” he said. At the Nov. 8 forum, the board intends “to present the facts, answer questions and give people the opportunity to express their views,” O’Neill added.

Homeland Towers looked at a number of alternatives in Philipstown and Nelsonville but found them unsuitable, Homeland Towers attorney Robert Gaudioso told the Nelsonville Planning Board on Oct. 25. The Secor property, however, “is a feasible alternative” to the Rockledge site, he said. “It is promising.”

Gaudioso elaborated Wednesday night (Nov. 1) at a Nelsonville Zoning Board of Appeals meeting. The Secor tract “works from a technical standpoint … quite well, actually,” he said. He mentioned the Nov. 8 forum and said that if the Secor site is “a reasonable alternative from a village standpoint,” if the village agrees to a lease, and if the project passes environmental and related reviews and gets approved, “we would be happy to go to that as an alternative and drop this [Rockledge] application.”

Secor Street, near the intersection with Crown Street: The proposed cell tower would be constructed on 4 acres in the woods to the right. (Photo by L.S. Armstrong)

Unlike the Rockledge parcel, the Nelsonville woods can be reached by village streets. Questions of access to the Rockledge Drive site came up at the Planning Board meeting. As designed, the tower would be approached over what Bill Bujarski, the village’s building inspector and code enforcer, described as about 75 feet of unimproved surface off the main road. For fire department vehicles, “getting to the site is the problem,” Bujarski said.

Gaudioso responded that the tower would be monitored from afar continuously but only checked in person occasionally. Moreover, he said, compared to the potential difficulties encountered in reaching private homes, “the issue of emergency services access is minimal.” Homeland Towers representatives also said they might reconfigure their initial design to minimize accessibility concerns.

Finer faux firs

At Nelsonville’s Planning Board meeting, the Homeland Towers team also distributed photos of state-of-the-art cell towers disguised as evergreens. Prior fake trees, including some in Philipstown, “are horrible,” Gaudioso conceded. “They don’t compare with what we’re proposing.”

6 thoughts on “Anyone Want a Cell Tower?

  1. There is a significant difference between utilizing private property for a cell tower versus taking municipal property, historically used as publicly accessible parkland, and repurposing its use. I hope the village of Nelsonville is doing its homework on what it means to take village land, used for decades as publicly accessible parkland, and shift to a non-park use.

  2. All the emergency services would appreciate a few extra towers since it is very difficult to communicate across the county to 911 center and Sheriff’s Department.

  3. Must we have another cell tower? I want to know who benefits? They are ugly and not harmless. The research and conclusions are there for anyone who may have health concerns. The rise in glioma aggressive brain cancers are well known. There is a strongly suspected link to cell phones and towers. Is this already a “done” deal, except for the site?

  4. It would be a great benefit if cell phone reception were improved in Cold Spring. Our phones cannot be used effectively in our house or within our Main Street business. We’ve spent boatloads on boosters in one form or another and still must stand outside in the yard to speak to anyone without the call being dropped.

    Just about everyone is now dependent on mobile communication devices and the demand for such service continues to grow. How can we accept the convenience of mobile communications without accepting the need for signal towers as well?

    If so many local children are negatively affected by blaring fire sirens, wouldn’t improved communications for emergency services via improved cellular reception be a useful alternative?

  5. We certainly do need better service. What I am learning is that there is a very big difference between what is the cheapest and most profitable solution for the Tower companies and what is best for our community. I am very thankful for the elected officials that are able to distinguish that difference and fight for what’s best for us.

  6. Given all the hoops and hurdles local government(s) force residents to jump through (and over) with the stated intent of preserving a quaint, historical, rural, traditional, village life, it is quite surprising to me that some in positions of power now seem to find it perfectly amenable to situate a monstrous piece of hyper-modern industrial communications equipment where it will (forever) tower menacingly over our bucolic small villages and their historically accurate balusters, cornices, and cupolas.