Cell towers on the rise

New Copake mast one of several that will boost service

COPAKE — An application for a proposed cell tower from Mariner Tower, II, LLC, has navigated its way to the Copake Planning Board, offering hope to residents of the southeastern portion of the county who have been clamoring for better cell phone service for years.

Based in Kennebunkport, ME, Mariner “is a regional company that specializes in providing wireless communications facilities to a wide range of customers throughout New York and New England.”

The company finds desirable cell tower sites, gets the approvals, builds the towers then leases space on them to communications service providers like AT&T and Verizon.

Mariner agent Christopher Ciolfi told The Columbia Paper this week that the company calls its communications towers “neutral hosts” that benefit the community by letting emergency services use the facility rent free, while leasing tower space to multiple users to minimize the number of towers in an area. “Four or five providers use one tower, rather than each one having their own tower,” said Mr. Ciolfi.

Mariner and Ezra J. Link, Jr., the landowner, are the applicants for the 150-foot lattice tower, which is proposed to be situated in a residential zoning district at 3124 County Route 7 on Mr. Link’s 156-acre property in West Copake on the east side of County Route 7 between Pumpkin Hollow Roads North and South.

The proposed “Copake Communications Facility,” as it is called in company documents filed with the Planning Board, would “make it possible for AT&T, [Federal Communications Commission] licensed wireless service providers and wireless Internet service providers to [offer] an adequate and safe level of emergency and non-emergency communications services (in-building and mobile) to the County Route 7 area of Copake, including areas north around Copake Lake and east along County Route 7A, State Route 22.”

Coverage from the new facility will also connect with coverage from existing facilities and new facilities Mariner is developing outside Copake.

Mariner has an existing tower at the Catamount Ski Area on the New York side of the border and has just wrapped up approvals for a new 140-foot tower on the Egremont, MA, side, also at Catamount, according to Mr. Ciolfi, who noted that Egremont officials initially asked Mariner to consider erecting a taller tower to make sure the town could get better coverage, though in the end the company decided the additional 20 feet “did not make sense.”

Mariner is also currently building a new tower on the southwest side of Route 23 in the Martindale section of Claverack on the Kevin Cullen property between the Martindale Xtra Mart and the Martindale Diner, just east of the Taconic State Parkway. And the company is “actively pursuing” an appropriate cell tower site in Ancram, where local resident Bob Roth has been beating the bushes to get a cell tower for years.

Mr. Ciolfi said there is no lack of Ancram residents offering their properties for tower sites; the problem is they are all in the vicinity of Route 22 on the east side of town, while the company’s target area is on the west side, near Route 82. Engineers are currently reviewing the sites, though it still is seeking ones closer to Route 82.

The 150-foot tower proposed in Copake is 25-feet taller than the height allowed by law, and instead of the 1,500-foot setback required from a residence, Mariner only has about 1,200 feet. Mr. Ciolfi said the 1,500 foot setback could be met, given the size of the parcel, if the tower was moved downhill, but that would put it in the middle of a field and not allow for the maximum screening provided by existing trees.

The proposed site is 985 feet above sea level and the tower would place the top-most antennas at a 1,135-foot elevation.

Part of the permitting procedure will require that Mariner tether a balloon on a 150-foot line at the proposed site so officials and residents can get an idea of how the tower would look from the surrounding area.

The company believes that “all feasible steps have been taken to minimize negative environmental effects,” saying in its application that its plan avoids wetlands, minimizes tree clearing, uses existing trails and farm roads for access, relies on a design for the tower base compound that works with the topography and uses a lattice-style tower.” And with all those steps, Mariner says the tower will provide “improved coverage to the intended target areas in town.”

Mr. Ciolfi is optimistic that his company will be able to work with the town to make the project happen. Wireless telecommunications coverage “is not just for the rich and famous–it’s a necessity and the time is now for Columbia and Berkshire counties to get some good, reliable service,” he said.

The Planning Board will take up the proposed cell tower at its Thursday, May 5 meeting.

To contact Diane Valden email

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