The Colonie Town Board adopted new application fees for the construction of new wireless towers and modifications to existing towers at a Town Board meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19.
The resolution was adopted with a 4 to 3 vote, after being voted down by the three Republican councilmembers, Tom With, Brian Hogan and Nicole Criscione-Szesnat.
This resolution goes along with a set of resolutions that were also passed with 4 to 3 votes, which enabled the town to modify its special use permits in correlation with wireless telecommunications and alter the facilities regulations in place by adopting a new Wireless Telecommunications Facilities Siting Law on Thursday, Nov. 5.
Prior to the resolutions passing at the Nov. 5 board meeting, Town Attorney Michael Magguilli said the laws would serve to have the town fairly compensated for rent, or usage, of pre-existing cell phone towers set up on town property. The resolutions were drafted after Magguilli said it came to the town’s attention that the town has been underpaid for use of town property by the owners of the towers, the wireless telecommunication providers.
Now we’re in a position to start getting fair market value and it’s our belief that the town was not getting fair market value under the prior administration, Magguilli said on Friday, Nov. 20. `We brought the law in the 21st century.`
Magguilli said he did not believe that the town was receiving fair market value for the rents on these towers since about 1998. While the laws are not retroactive, moving forward, Magguilli said he expects the town to be receiving fair market value for the rents.
In the past, the town has also allowed the wireless telecommunication providers to go on to town land and make modifications to the towers to enhance their service and therefore enhance their business, Magguilli said, and the town has not charged them any additional fees for doing so.
`They make more money because of the new equipment, and I think the town should have a share in that,` he said.
Three public hearings were held on the resolutions that were passed on Nov. 5, with wireless providers from Verizon, and other, smaller companies speaking out against the resolutions, claiming the laws are not `palatable` to the communication companies.
Magguilli said he has met with the wireless companies several times before the resolutions were passed on Nov. 5.
The resolution that was passed on Thursday, Nov. 19, set in place the new application fees for using or modifying these towers, which includes $6,000 for a new tower; $3,500 for a modification to the existing tower as long as there is no increase in height; $3,500 for addition of an antenna as long as there is no increase in height ; and $3,500 for temporary use of the facility for a tower.
If there is an increase in height involved, Magguilli said, the fee jumps back to $6,000 as if it were an application for the construction of a new tower.
`The application fees are supposed to be based on the estimated costs to the town to process the application,` he said.
Councilwoman Criscione-Szesnat said she voted down the laws because she did not feel the town gave enough consideration to the wireless companies that provided input on the laws.
`I recognize the need for the town to raise revenue, but I feel that the industry was bringing up a lot of good points,` she said.
`If I were drafting the law I would have put those points in.`
Criscione-Szesnat said she did not feel the laws were `cohesive enough` and that the town attorney’s office did not put in enough of an effort.
`I don’t think that they really did a good job,` she said. `The town attorney’s office didn’t really give a good day’s effort.`
Magguilli said he disagrees with this statement.
`She’s certainly entitled to her opinion. I disagree with it,` he said. `Our job is to do what’s in the best interest of the town first and foremost and not in the interest of the wireless companies.`