Tower builder finds warmer welcome next door

GALLATIN–Its proposal to build a 150-foot cell tower at 2259 Route 82 in Ancram went over like a lead balloon late last year, so Mariner Tower II has shifted its sights to a parcel at the intersection of Route 82 and Willmer Hill Road in Gallatin.

 

About a half mile west of the unpopular Route 82 site on the Ancram/Gallatin town line, the new proposed site is on a 54-acre parcel owned by Douglas J. and Karen M. Ingram of Westbury in Nassau County on Long Island.

 

The proposed cell tower location is the next piece in AT&T’s cell phone service network in south central and eastern Columbia County.

 

Mariner Tower representative Chris Ciolfi told The Columbia Paper this week he filed a sketch plan with the Gallatin Planning Board, which is reviewing it and assembling comments. The plan calls for a 150-foot tower in a wooded area on the west side of Willmer Hill Road, a dead end. Mr. Ciolfi said it is the first property on the corner, just off Route 82.

 

The tower will not require any variances and complies with Gallatin’s cell tower height and setback requirements. Non-compliance with setbacks under Ancram’s less strict Telecommunications Tower Law was the main reason for neighbors’ strenuous objection to putting a cell tower at 2259 Route 82 last December.

 

Mr. Ciolfi said the Gallatin law calls for maximizing coverage, while keeping the number of towers at a minimum and below 200 feet in height. The Willmer Hill Road tower application meets both of those guidelines, he said.

 

Though Mr. Ciolfi said Mariner has no immediate plans to return to Ancram to look for sites, he did say he had “very good meetings” with officials there and it was a couple of neighbors who were not pleased with the proposed Route 82 location. AT&T and Mariner are “completely committed” to working with the community and their efforts to find another more suitable site in the general area is evidence of that, Mr. Ciolfi said. “We have invested time and money in providing service to this area, the project has not changed, though the location of the facility has.”

 

Mariner and AT&T recently received conditional approval for a 150-feet cell tower at 119 Ten Neighbors Road, Gallatin on the west side of the Taconic State Parkway, just north of Jackson Corners. The project still awaits a storm water management plan from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, according to Gallatin Planning Board Chairman Terry Porter.

 

The Willmer Hill Road site is “much more visible” than the Ten Neighbors Road site and has more neighbors, which may generate more public comment, Mr. Porter said this week.

 

He expects Mr. Ciolfi will appear at the next Planning Board meeting June 25. A public hearing will not be scheduled until the application is deemed complete.

 

Since last year, Mariner and AT&T have built cell towers on the South Egremont, MA, side of the Catamount Ski Area, in Martindale on the southwest side of Route 23, and in West Copake on the east side of County Route 7 between Pumpkin Hollow Roads North and South. The West Copake tower “should be close” to being online, though Mr. Ciolfi said he did not immediately know whether it is active yet. Construction of the tower at the Ten Neighbors Road site is in the process of being scheduled, he said.

 

Mariner and  AT&T had hoped to construct a tower in Ancram at 2259 Route 82, but scrapped that proposal after significant public outcry against the project was registered by residents of both Ancram and Gallatin.

 

Following a contentious public hearing on the proposal last December, longtime cell tower proponent Bob Roth of Ancram, who had worked for more than five years to bring cell tower service to his town, resigned after he found he had “no support.”

 

Ancram is currently in the process of revamping its cell tower law and will conduct a public hearing on the Zoning Revision Committee’s revision at the next Town Board meeting June 21 at 6:30 p.m.

 

Asked for comment on Mariner’s decision to leave Ancram and go elsewhere to build its next tower, Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin said the new proposed site will provide Ancram with virtually the same coverage as the 2259 Route 82 site would have.

At some time in the next year or so, “We’ll start poking at them to start looking for a site in Ancramdale. AT&T wants to fill in its own network,” he said.

 

To contact Diane Valden email .

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