Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
April 10, 2012 Issue
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Bethel wants cell service – but not at scenery’s expense

By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE — The Town of Bethel’s proposed revision of its cell tower law gained both praise and criticism at the town board meeting earlier this month – from the same speakers.
Supervisor Dan Sturm said after the meeting that the revisions were spurred by an AT&T proposal to site a cell tower on Boy Scout property off County Route 26 (Crystal Lake Road) in the southwestern corner of the township.
Two more towers have since been proposed, he said, one near Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
During the meeting, town attorney Rob McEwan explained the changes as “better defining” existing law.
He found agreement from those who spoke at the March 10 public hearing, but concerns were aired by a variety of residents regarding aesthetic impacts, potential radiation and environmental issues.
Featuring changes that favor the town and its residents – requiring, for example, cell tower companies to pay application fees without a guarantee that the town board will even act on their application – the law remained just a proposal.
That was due largely to the efforts of town resident Gary Friedland, who lives near the site of the proposed AT&T cell tower which initially sparked the law’s rewrite.
He provided a large list of suggestions designed to further minimize visual and environmental disturbances, among other ideas.
“I believe you have an excellent start on an ordinance,” he wrote to town officials, “but it is not finished to ensure as many protections as possible to the community you represent. If passed in its present form, it may have serious future consequences that have not been anticipated.”
Supervisor Dan Sturm felt the draft law is stronger than the existing version, but he acknowledged that the comments made that evening needed to be considered, so the matter was tabled to the town board’s March 24 meeting (this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Duggan Community Center in White Lake).
A short Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) that accompanied the draft law wasn’t approved either, with Smallwood resident Jonathan Hyman arguing that its listing of “no aesthetic impacts” was incorrect and unsubstantiated.
The board will likely vote on the law and EAF on March 24. Sturm does not expect, however, to reopen the public hearing.
Copies of the proposed law are available at the town clerk’s office or by going online to (click on the Website Directory, then on Proposed Local Laws).
Justice court leased
After a purchase offer from a potential florist shop fell through, Sturm said the town was approached about leasing the former justice court in Kauneonga Lake.
The court moved to the Duggan Community Center in White Lake a few months ago, and now the Christian Congregation of Bethel, Inc. wants the old building for three days a week, said Sturm.
The existing constable’s office inside the court would remain, he explained, while the congregation would utilize adjacent spaces totalling about 800 square feet.
The initial lease term is for six months, but it’s renewable for another 12 months – though that would bump the lease payment from $500 a month to $900 a month. The congregation must pay for the utilities it uses.
The lease allows the congregation to use the building throughout the week, though Sturm said the congregation currently plans a three-day-a-week schedule.
Councilwomen Denise Frangipane and Vicky Vassmer-Simpson voted against approving the lease.
“I’m just not convinced we’ve explored all options for that space,” Frangipane explained.
She and Simpson agreed that the one-year extension option leaves no room for renegotiation at the end of the initial six-month lease.
However, Sturm and councilmen Bob Blais and Dick Crumley approved the lease, thus passing the measure.

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