Cell service advocate calls it quits

ANCRAM–Longtime cell tower proponent Bob Roth won’t be working to bring cell phone service to the southeast corner of Columbia County anymore.

Mr. Roth, who has focused his efforts on getting a cell phone provider to build a tower that would service Ancram and vicinity for more than five years, gave his last monthly report to the Ancram Town Board December 15. He recounted events of the December 1 Ancram Planning Board meeting during which a public hearing was opened and numerous Gallatin residents expressed opposition to Mariner Tower’s proposal to build a 150-foot-tall cell tower near the Gallatin town line at 2259 State Route 82.

Relating his comments to an earlier discussion by the Town Board about home rule, Mr. Roth said the issue was for Ancram to decide, not Gallatin.

Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin told Mr. Roth that the proposed application does not comply with the town’s zoning law, which was changed this year to be more cell-tower friendly. The supervisor said the applicant decided to submit the application though he knew that a waiver of setback requirements could only be granted under extraordinary circumstances. With only a 50-foot margin on one side, the proposal does not meet a side setback requirement of 150 feet.

When Mr. Roth continued to talk about the cell tower public hearing, noting that statements and exhibits presented by tower opponents were “misleading” and that Mariner representative Chris Ciolfi had offered to move the tower “three football fields away,” Mr. Bassin interrupted Mr. Roth telling him his statements “were not terribly productive.” The supervisor then told Mr. Roth, “I’d appreciate it if you’d sit down.”

Mr. Roth then asked to make one more statement and said, “I resign.” He and his wife then departed.

In a subsequent email to Mr. Roth shared with board members and The Columbia Paper, Mr. Bassin told him he could expect a letter of appreciation for “all the effort you have put in over the years to attract cell service to Ancram.” The letter will be sent after it is approved by the board at the next meeting, said the supervisor, asking Mr. Roth to, “Please accept the gratitude of the Town Board and the residents of Ancram for your efforts to attract a cell tower. We would not be where we are without your commitment and contributions to this effort.”

In response, Mr. Roth wrote that he thought he was working with the town’s blessing, but instead found he had no support and “was attacked verbally by the people of Gallatin, who objected to the plans we had submitted for the cell tower to the board.”

In another cell tower development this week, the county Planning Board sent the cell tower proposal back to the town Planning Board, deeming it incomplete. The town Planning Board resumes the cell tower public hearing January 5.

Also at the Town Board meeting, Supervisor Bassin announced that the Board of Supervisors approved at its December 14 meeting, a resolution authorizing the county to purchase about .15 acres of property with a dilapidated single-family house, known as the Tinsmith house, at the intersection of County Route 7 and State Route 82 for $31,750.  The property must be purchased in order to allow the County Department of Public Works to improve the sight distance from County Route 7 looking toward the Ancram Mill and the turning radius through the intersection, according to the resolution.

The supervisor expected the sale to close in the first quarter of next year and the improvement work to be done “before the snow flies.”  The supervisor invited interested citizens to sit down with him and discuss what the intersection will look like.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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