Company clearing way for cell tower
A federal judge on Thursday (March 18) temporarily prevented tree-cutting on the Nelsonville parcel where two firms want to construct a 95-foot cell tower overlooking the Cold Spring Cemetery.
The ruling followed an emergency request from opponents of the tower to prevent the tree removal on Rockledge Road, which Homeland Towers had scheduled to begin today. The judge called for a hearing but said it would not take place before Wednesday (March 24).
In a motion filed on Thursday morning, about 18 local residents, most of whom live in Nelsonville, argued that the tree removal posed a risk of “irreparable damage to the environment” and to a “potentially endangered species” of bat. It also said it would threaten the public’s interest in preserving the “bucolic nature” of the area.
They also claimed that Homeland has not yet proven that it has legal access to the tower site via Rockledge Road, a matter under review by a state court.
Homeland, which is partnering with Verizon Wireless on the tower, mentioned its intention to start cutting trees down in documents that Michael Caruso, an attorney for the tower opponents, filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday (March 17).
In a letter addressed to an attorney for the Village of Nelsonville and also sent to Caruso, Robert Gaudioso, a Homeland attorney, said the company had a valid building permit and needed to begin removing trees before March 31, when annual restrictions take effect to protect the bats.
Last fall, the tower opponents filed a lawsuit in an attempt to overturn a settlement that the village reached in January 2020 with Homeland Towers and Verizon. The companies had sued the village in 2018 after it refused to issue a permit for the tower.
The residents contend that by accepting the settlement, the village “caved” to a telecommunications industry and its “sue-and-settle gambit” that forces towers on communities. They asserted that the agreement violates national environmental protection laws and that it and the building permit reflect “arbitrary, capricious and irrational” decision-making.
The judge’s order on Wednesday capped four busy days.
On Tuesday, a federal appellate court refused to order the lower district court to throw out the settlement and building permit. The day before, the district court gave the residents until March 29 to respond to Homeland’s request that the court dismiss their lawsuit.
Nelsonville also has asked the court to dismiss the residents’ complaint, saying its decisions were always “in accordance with law” and that the residents lack sufficient cause to sue.