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 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.
“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?”
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.
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.
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