In her book The Hudson River Highlands, which documents the preservation of our region over centuries, Frances Dunwell ends her preface by stating: “The spirit of the Highlands endures because people intervened to protect nature, beauty and a national heritage.”
We are encouraged to see that, even in this digital age where we’re tied to our devices, this spirit is alive and well. It has manifested in the recent opposition to proposed cell towers that will further our attachment to these very devices. However, it is not opposing the expansion of wireless. Rather, it is continuing the culture of preserving the beauty and heritage we cherish.
A perfect example of this spirit in action was the spontaneous formation of the group Philipstown Cell Solutions who, over a short time, raised funds, hired expertise, dived into Nelsonville’s zoning code and state code, and gathered the necessary skills to put together a compelling argument for going about this technology expansion differently.
Pointing to both Nelsonville’s scenic protections in its zoning code and the fact that the proposed cell tower site lies in a designated Scenic Area of Statewide Significance, they have focused the dialogue on how to expand wireless technology in a way that is not detrimental to our magnificent scenic beauty and cultural heritage.
We applaud these efforts and agree this is the route to follow. We share concerns that any decision here could be precedent- setting, especially under a telecommunications framework undergoing rapid change, as evidenced by the recent decision to reverse net neutrality.
We know the scenic-focused strategy has worked well in other places. For example, the Adirondack Park Agency has a leading-edge policy on new cell towers that requires “substantial invisibility.”
The Hudson Highlands is an area of unique, unparalleled scenic beauty that drives both our tourism industry and our attractiveness as a place to live. This, in turn, creates the need for more cell and data coverage. However, the installation of such infrastructure cannot come at the cost of what makes the Hudson Highlands so special in the first place.
Michelle Smith, Garrison
Smith is executive director of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust.