Cell towers are hard sell in Ancram

ANCRAM–After a review of the town’s law on telecommunications towers adopted just last year, the Zoning Revision Committee recommends throwing it out and enacting a new one. The Town Board agrees.

 

The cell tower law came under fire last December during a contentious public hearing on an application by a company called Mariner Tower II to erect a 150-foot cell tower at 2259 State Route 82 near the Gallatin town line. Most of the rural town lacks cell phone service, but Ancram and Gallatin residents at the hearing charged that the law sets too few restrictions on cell tower companies at the expense of landowners.

 

The law was amended last year in accordance with the new Comprehensive Plan precisely because the town wanted it to be more cell-tower friendly. According to the law, the Town Board found it is in the community’s best interests “to encourage the availability of cellular telephone service.”

The law was written to “attract cellular service” by making the approval process “predictable and reasonable” while minimizing the negative environmental impact of the towers and protecting “the health, safety and welfare” of Ancram residents.

Opponents of the law said it favors cell tower applicants because it cut the necessary setbacks from 750 feet to just the height of the tower, allowing a tower to loom intrusively over neighboring properties. The law also contains a provision that allows the Planning Board to “waive provisions or requirements…when such waiver advances the goals and purposes of this Local Law.”

 

Mariner Tower, a co-applicant with AT&T, was seeking such a waiver from the Planning Board to require just a 50-foot setback instead of 150 feet.

 

Zoning Revision Committee (ZRC) Chairman and Councilman Hugh Clark told the Town Board at its April 19 meeting that the committee suggests the current cell tower law be repealed and replaced with a new law drawn up by the ZRC.

In a written summary about  ZRC changes to the current law, Mr. Clark wrote that the revision “sets towers back at least 1.5 times tower height from property lines, wildlife habitats, watercourses, historic sites and utility lines; 500 feet from habitable structures; at least the tower height from accessory structures that are not habitable; and contains other provisions protecting neighboring parcels.”

 

The rewrite would remove the Planning Board’s waiver authority when it comes to changes to minimum setbacks. Instead, such changes would be the province of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Other revisions have to do with the posting of performance bonds, permit renewals and tower inspections.

 

The Town Board voted in favor of going forward with the proposed new law, which is subject to compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and now must be reviewed by the town and county Planning Boards and scheduled for a public hearing. The board is shooting for the June meeting.

 

According to Town Supervisor Art Bassin, Mariner Tower has notified the Planning Board that it is withdrawing its application for the 2259 State Route 82 site, owned by Stephen Tucker and Heidi Baldwin, and has found a new location in that same vicinity, but is awaiting AT&T approval before submitting a new application.

 

Mariner is now in the application process for a permit to build a tower at 10 Neighbors Road in Gallatin on the west side of the Taconic State Parkway, just north of Jackson Corners. The company’s new tower in West Copake is up and is expected to be operational within the next couple of months, said the supervisor.

 

In other business the Town Board:

*Heard from Ancram Fire Chief David Boice that plans are in the works for an addition to the firehouse with the assistance of Architect Joe Iuviene, who also worked on design of the addition and renovation of the Town Highway Garage. Fire officials hope to break ground on the project in the spring of 2013, the chief said.

 

*Heard that the town spent $17,000 of its snow and ice budget through the end of March and another $4,000 in April topping off sand and salt supplies. The amount spent is a mere one third of the amount budgeted and leaves $45,000 in salt and sand money unexpended.

 

*Heard from Supervisor Bassin that the state supports the idea of fixing the County Route 7/State Route 82 intersection by trimming back the retaining wall and carving back the corner to create better sight distance and a wider turning radius, while not harming the Tinsmith house. The next step is to create a work plan and schedule.

 

*Agreed to solicit bids for conducting a dog census. The town hasn’t counted its canines in upwards of 10 years. The move will insure that more dogs are licensed and therefore vaccinated against rabies. It will also make it easier to find who owns a lost dog, the supervisor said. Also on the subject of dogs, the supervisor said a local resident has filed a police complaint about an ongoing barking dog problem. The case will be heard in Town Court and the town is obligated to retain an attorney to prosecute the matter since it is a violation of a town ordinance.

 

*Heard from Summer Camp Director Ruth Thomas that this year’s program starts July 9 and runs through August 17. The cost is $65/week for Ancram residents and $75/week for out-of-towners. Scholarships are available. Mrs. Thomas is hoping to get both the basketball court and the baseball field fixed up this year.

 

*Agreed to seek approvals from the county and state to reduce the speed limit on Carson and Prospect Hill roads to 35 miles per hour.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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