By Ted Waddell
HORTONVILLE April 27, 2001 A cell tower application near Callicoon has stirred up controversy, and several dozen area residents turned out Wednesday night to speak out about it mostly to voice opposition.
They know what they can do with their tower, said John Miller of Greenwood Lake and Callicoon. They can take their monthly payment and shove it.
Miller, who built a home on 250 acres along Froelich Road in 1951 to escape the hectic pace of city life, made these off-the-cuff remarks before Wednesday nights Town of Delaware planning board meeting. The meeting was held at the Hortonville Firehouse.
Miller said he was approached in June 1999 by SBA Properties, Inc., a cellular tower construction company from Guilderland, with a proposal to lease them a 100x100-foot lot for upwards of $1,600 per month. He turned then down.
At the meeting, Miller and other local residents expressed concerns about the proposed towers impact upon the view of the Delaware River valley and its proximity to a high-pressure gas line owned by Columbia Gas. Reduced property values was also an issue.
During the regular monthly planning board meeting, representatives of SBA Properties made a brief presentation and announced two recent modifications to the original special-use permit application to erect a 195-foot cell tower overlooking the Delaware River: reduce the height of the tower by 25 feet (to 170 feet), and instead of a lattice-work design, put up a camouflaged tower called a monopine (a tapered metal tower is painted and limbed, so the cell tower looks like a giant tree).
Dave Knudsen of Callicoon was in the audience. His reaction to the idea of a 170-foot-high cell tower masquerading as a giant tree?
Its going to look like a mechanical Marine with leaves sticking out of his helmet, he said.
Representatives of SBA Properties who attended were Eric Murray, property specialist with the cell tower company; attorney Mark T. Sweeney of Albany; and Linda Tarbox, a NYS licenced landscape architect from Troy.
According to Murray, the proposed site was originally identified as a potential location by Sprint Communications in the late 1990s as part of a system of towers, each 250 feet high.
The SBA tower is designed to serve several carriers (the wireless facility will accommodate up to five antenna platforms and two microwave dishes, according to the SBA application). The site would include a 170-foot-high monopine tower, associated buildings and a four-acre easement. The carriers would provide free space on the tower to local municipalities and emergency services providers: fire, police, EMS and the highway department.
Joe DeFalco, developer of Top of the World Estates, was on hand to make a pitch for his March 26 application to erect a cell tower on his property, located about 1,200 feet from the proposed SBA site on land owned by Joe and June Disert of Albuquerque, NM.
DeFalco said he was contacted by Crown Castle Atlantic, a cell tower company, on July 14 with a proposal to lease them land to erect a cell tower on his property.
Three residents of Viaduct Road (Phyllis Bilick, Fran Hepburn and Justine Grabowski-Spencer) suggested that SBA find another location for the tower, possibly the clock tower at the Delaware Valley Job Corps Center.
Lori James talked about published health hazards associated with microwave energy. She lives next to Miller off Froelich Road.
I dont want to feel like Im getting zapped with radiation when I go out to work in my garden, she said.
Kenneth Klein, attorney for the town, advised the planning board that federal law prohibits them from denying cell tower applications based upon potential health hazards associated with cellular transmissions.
Not everyone was opposed to having a cell tower in town, as the riverside hamlet is well known for its lack of cell service.
Cindy Menges, a telecommunications consultant, lives along River Road.
We need the cell tower, she said. It can do a lot of great things for the area.
Speaking on behalf of the Hortonville Volunteer Fire Department, Bill Buckmaster said, Its fine to pick a site, but lets find one that works.
On April 3, the Town of Delaware planning board asked the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) to review the SBA application in light of the towers impact on the Delaware River corridor.
The UDC is the oversight body responsible for the coordinated implementation of the River Management Plan of the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River. (In 1978, Congress included a 73.4-mile section of the Upper Delaware into the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.)
Harold G. Roeder, Jr., chair of the UDC project review committee, prepared an eight-page report on the SBA project. The report, dated April 24, was received too late to be discussed at the public hearing but was made part of the record.
In summarizing the 35 comments made in the UDC review, Roeder said, in part, . . . the UDC is not opposed to a cell tower being located in the hamlet of Callicoon within the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River corridor. However, we prefer that it not be visually intrusive. We recognize that there is a need for telecommunications in the region.
Continuing, Our primary concern is how these facilities will be sited and what visual impacts, and accumulative impacts, they will have on the natural character [of the river corridor] and the rustic communities. . . . All alternatives must seriously be considered to ensure that the visual impacts are minimized. . . . All design alternatives should be seriously considered, with the least obtrusive being selected . . .
Earlier in his review, Roeder questioned the lack of any mention of the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River corridor or possible impacts on it in any materials he had seen so far.
This oversight makes us wonder if the applicant has seriously considered all alternatives and tried to minimize the visual impacts of the proposed cell tower, he said.
According to SBA representative Murray, the cell tower company will send the town planning board a revised application for a special-use permit and site plan approval within two weeks.
Ed Raum, planning board chairman, said copies of the revised paperwork will be available to the public at the town clerks office as soon as they are received from SBA Properties.
The cell tower issue will be discussed at the next public meeting of the planning board. It is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on May 23 in Hortonville.