Nelsonville Has Draft Cell Tower Settlement

Village forum scheduled for Monday

Nelsonville greeted 2020 by considering a proposed settlement of the lawsuit filed by Homeland Towers and Verizon Wireless against the village after it rejected a 110-foot cell tower on a wooded hillside.

Drafted after months of negotiations, the settlement would allow a 95-foot-tall tower on private land on Rockledge Road, above the Cold Spring Cemetery.

The Village Board scheduled a public forum for Monday, Jan. 6, to discuss the proposal, which, if adopted, would end the legal fight.

Homeland Towers and Verizon sued Nelsonville 18 months ago after its Zoning Board of Appeals denied a permit for the proposed tower. AT&T sued the village separately. The companies argued that the village had violated federal telecommunications law by denying the permit for the tower.

The Zoning Board of Appeals maintained that the companies failed to demonstrate a significant need for the tower. It also concluded the structure would violate zoning law by detracting from the area’s scenic and historic attributes.

Under the draft settlement, the tower will be 15 feet shorter than first envisioned and the companies cannot later increase its height.

Camouflaged to resemble a fir tree, the tower, like the surrounding security fence and screening vegetation, would be compatible with the natural landscape, according to the draft settlement, which directs the companies to pay the village $35,758 for expenses incurred during the tower review.

In addition, if federal Judge Vincent Briccetti approves the settlement, Homeland and Verizon would have 60 days to submit a building application, which must include a calculation of the “worst-case maximum permissible” exposure to humans from tower radio frequency emissions. The village then would have 15 days to issue a building permit.

Noting that Homeland Towers intends to buy the parcel on which the tower will stand, the draft proposal states that if no sale occurs, “the village shall have no obligation to issue a building permit.”

The draft also provides that:

  • The village and local emergency services can place three antennas on the tower at no charge.
  • Tower lighting will project downward to reduce intrusiveness.
  • Tower noise pollution will be minimized.
  • Exercising “reasonable approval,” the village can help design the layout of the tower driveway.
  • The tower companies will create a $30,000 fund to help neighbors landscape their properties, but those neighbors tapping into it must agree to not bring future claims against the tower.

The draft Nelsonville settlement resembles the one approved by Philipstown’s Town Board last summer to end a separate lawsuit filed by Homeland Towers and Verizon in February 2018 against the town after it declined to allow a cell tower on Vineyard Road.

Concerns about the handling of the litigation contributed to the ousting of the incumbent mayor and a trustee in village elections last March.

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