Nelsonville Residents Object to Cell Tower Plan

Say it would be too close to school, cemetery, homes

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Residents packed a Nelsonville Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Aug. 29 to denounce a proposal to erect a cell phone tower on a mountainside above a cemetery, elementary school and woodland homes belonging to birds and deer as well as humans.

Proposed for a 9.6-acre tract owned by Doug Logan at 15 Rockledge Drive, a dead-end lane that intersects Moffatt Road, the 110-foot tower would serve Verizon and AT&T, with capacity for two additional carriers and emergency services.

The Manitou School stands off Moffatt Road below the site and the 152-year-old Cold Spring Cemetery spreads beneath it on Peekskill Road.

The audience awaits the start of the Nelsonville ZBA discussion of the proposed cell tower. Others crowded the doorway and far wall, out of camera range. (Photo by L.S. Armstrong)

The proposed tower is the second to stir opposition in recent months. The other, proposed for a hillside on Vineyard Yard, off Route 9, just east of Nelsonville and Cold Spring, is under review by the Philipstown government. Both tower applications were presented by Homeland Towers LLC, which represents wireless providers.

The meeting was moved from Nelsonville to Philipstown Town Hall because of the expected turnout.

Robert Gaudioso, a Homeland Towers attorney, said that the tower was necessary because of “a significant gap in service in and around Nelsonville” and because the demand for wireless service, including for devices other than phones, continues to escalate.

Residents challenged the need.

An entire industry exists devoted to disguising cell phone towers. This “tree,” identified by the photographer as an example of “Pinus Cellurius,” is located in Tucson, Arizona. Towers have also been disguised as flag poles, cactuses, water towers and silos. (Photo by Bill Morrow)

“I get perfect service,” said Harold Akselrad, of Moffatt Road, one of many to make the point.

“Why is this tower being built?” asked George Eisenbach, of Billy’s Way. “If this tower wasn’t built, what would go wrong?”

1 fake vs. 47 real

Along with the tower, designed to mimic a tree, the facility would include a 3,250-square-foot compound and an 8-foot fence. The installation would require removing 47 trees, according to Gaudioso.

ZBA Member Steve Merando predicted the public would object. “There’s a lot of old standing wood up there,” he said.

Nor did the idea of disguising the tower as a tree appeal to audience members. “No one is going to confuse a tower with a tree,” said Jeff Rossi, of Rockledge Road.

Jon Champlin, whose parents live on Rockledge, noted that “there are no 110-foot trees” in the area. “It would stick out like a sore thumb” and “lower property values.” He was not alone in that concern.

Health and environmental worries also came up.

“What is the [tower] microwave going to do to my kids, and the wildlife?” asked Richard Villella, a father of three who said he shares his yard with a flock of turkeys and moved to Rockledge Road because of its rural peacefulness.

“We have eagles and hawks,” asked Kenneth Levine, of Healy Road. “What’s the impact on them?”

Cui bono?

Besides expressing 21st-century concerns, critics echoed an ancient query: Cui bono? To whose advantage? “What are we gaining by this?” Levine said. “I don’t see the benefit coming to the community.”

Some residents suggested that, if a tower is needed, placing it on town property could generate revenue for the local government.

“Why should one person stand to benefit from it?” Villella asked.

Nelsonville ZBA Chairman William Rice (Photo by L.S. Armstrong)

ZBA Chairman William Rice observed that “Who benefits?” seemed to be the most common question among audience members.

The tower would require a special-use permit from the Zoning Board, site-plan approval from the Planning Board, and possibly — depending on interpretations of state law — a variance to gain access to the site.

Garrison resident Sandy Saunders suggested the tower could be placed on a commercial lot he owns at 3 Brook St., where it “would barely be visible from the cemetery,” whereas “the proposed [Rockledge] location seems stupid,” he said.

During the discussion, another possible location surfaced: the Philipstown Highway Department garage on Fishkill Road. Gaudioso said he had talked to Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea several weeks ago about that site. “We’d certainly be agreeable,” he said, but “it has a long way to go.”

“Let’s look into that one,” urged Chris Keeley, a ZBA member.

Rice said the ZBA will discuss the tower proposal at its next meeting and advised Homeland Towers to respond to the concerns raised.

Videos by Gregory Gunder

6 Responses to "Nelsonville Residents Object to Cell Tower Plan"

  1. Jeff Rossi
    Jeff Rossi   September 1, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    For those of you interested in supporting the efforts to find an alternative location for the cell tower, please join our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/SaveCSCemetery/

  2. Rev. Tim Greco   September 1, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    I cannot stand the thought of an unsightly ugly cell tower within eyeshot of our cemetery. The Church on the Hill would be very open to housing the tower in our steeple if it would not compromise the structure itself. There is plenty of room up there and if our neighbors are agreeable to this idea it’s fine with us. Anything to help our community. Please help get the word out.

  3. Andrew Dade   September 1, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    What are the short and long-term health effects on humans from the microwave energy and electromagnetic energy this tower would give off?

  4. Ann Fanizzi   September 3, 2017 at 8:06 am

    The Odell/Walker duo attempted to pull the same thing, locating a cell tower on the Mahopac Airport property adjacent to ball fields, residential area and an historic site. They did so not for the purpose of obtaining the best location possible for transmission but because the land was county property, foregoing the cost of purchase. Ah, but there were hidden costs; the state grant only paid for a portion of the cost of construction and installation, the remainder, which was significant, was to be borne by the Mahopac Fire Department aka taxpayers.

    The uproar among the residents and the threat of a lawsuit (letter written by my attorney) and the County did an about-face and started looking for an alternative site. The exact same scenario occurred in Putnam Valley with howls from Supervisor Oliverio when the County proposed locating the tower near the PV Senior Center, another County property. Keep resisting.

  5. Donald MacDonald   September 3, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    I would comment “well done” to Chairman Rice and each member of the Nelsonville ZBA for their work on this matter. The board came to he hearing prepared, they asked good questions, were respectful to members of the public as well as the applicant’s representatives – in short I saw volunteers acting as true professionals in a low key, neighborly manner.

  6. Randy Federgreen   September 5, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Great work, everyone! Let’s not look at this ugly tower, disguised as a gigantic fake tree! Let the phone companies put it in a discreet location and let the community benefit from the rental income from renting the space in our town, or better yet, offer free wi-fi for the community. That would be a draw for tourists and tech-savvy guests to our beautiful town. Businesses and restaurants will benefit from this.

    Lastly, we have terrible mobile phone coverage on ATT and T-Mobile. If this proposed tower, perhaps located in the Church on the Hill Steeple or another discreet location, would offer all residents and visitors better mobile coverage.