Cell-tower neighbor files action over access road
A cell tower planned for Nelsonville hit yet another obstacle on Tuesday (Oct. 27) when neighbors to the site filed a lawsuit in state court, accusing the developers of attempting to illegally expand a right of way.
Richard Villella and Courtney Tarpley, who live at 16 Rockledge Road, contend that to reach the tower site Homeland Towers intends to turn a right of way that crosses their property into a wider road, remove mature trees, dig 310 feet of trenches, add underground electric and telecommunications infrastructure and damage a stone wall — all of which, they say, exceed the allowances of the right of way.
Their attorney, Mark Blanchard of White Plains, filed the case in Putnam Supreme Court. They seek an injunction to prevent work from beginning.
Construction on the 95-foot tower, disguised as a pine tree, was expected to begin after Nov. 1, when threatened animal species, such as bats, have hunkered down for winter.
The Village of Nelsonville initially refused to grant permits for the structure, prompting Homeland Towers and its partner, Verizon Wireless, to sue the village in federal court. Following lengthy negotiations, the companies and Nelsonville reached a settlement in January.
On Oct. 14, a group of Nelsonville and Philipstown residents sued the village in federal court to get the settlement overturned.
The tower would be built on a landlocked, 9.6-acre tract acquired by Homeland Towers in March from Doug Logan, the proprietor of the Cold Spring Cemetery, which lies below the ridge. Homeland Towers plans to use the right of way across the Villella property to reach the tower from Rockledge Road.
According to the complaint, Homeland Towers wants to construct 2,700 square feet of roadway on the Villella property, plus resurface the private Rockledge Road with “a highly undesirable new surface.”
The couple argue that the right of way, mentioned in property title records, only allows basic entry and exit to owners of a few surrounding properties. They said Homeland’s plans would “effectively destroy” their home’s value and “the bucolic character of the neighborhood.”
In a memo to the court, Blanchard cited New York Court of Appeals decisions that, he wrote, define a right of way as “rights to access the land” but “not to physically alter the land in any way.”
Two years ago, during the litigation against Nelsonville, Robert Gaudioso, an attorney for Homeland Towers, dismissed concerns raised by Villella and Tarpley as “a classic example of ‘not in my backyard.’” He said what they viewed as Homeland Towers’ attempts to “confiscate” part of the access road was in fact an effort to improve the “access road to which all the surrounding parcels have a right of way.”