NEW SCOTLAND — “My mother died trying to call me. I will pay for anything these guys want to put [a cell tower] up,” said Rich Hazen, of Clarksville.
Hazen lives in what has been called a “dead zone” of cell activity in Clarksville, where calls are often dropped and any other cell phone activity involving data use can take up to minutes to be processed. A cell phone tower from Verizon Wireless approved by the Zoning Board and given preliminary approval by the Planning Board seeks to change that.
The plan received approval for a height variance by the Zoning Board in January, and later the Planning Board after a strong show of support from community members.
“There has been a need for coverage in that area for a while,” said Planning Board Chairman Charles Voss to Mr. Hazen, after expressing his condolences for the loss of his mother.
When the cell tower was originally proposed to the Zoning Board, the town had sought to place it on government-owned land. The town landfill and water tower areas were surveyed as possible locations, but ultimately, Verizon bought private property at 20 Stovepipe Road, because more room was needed.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” said resident Sharon Boelke, at the Feb. 2 Planning Board meeting. “We have them all over the town already.”
The new 124-feet tall tower will be disguised to look like a pine tree, after the decision on cell tower design left to the discretion of the Planning Board.
Though the monopine design is slightly taller than other design options, as more height is needed for the top cone of the “tree,” the added height was included in Verizon’s original Zoning Board height variance application, and for the Planning Board, the added camouflage was a positive feature.
“Based on proliferation of towers throughout upstate New York and the entire U.S., Verizon’s position is that a monopine design is not that visually intrusive. Most folks realize what they are looking at, and there’s not a lot of visual sensitivity to them anymore,” said a Verizon representative at the meeting.
Verizon needs now only approach the Planning Board once more with final revisions to achieve its approval, which would leave final approval up to the town board.
Cellco Engineering has applied on behalf of the Verizon company, who proposes to place the cell tower in Voorheesville to alleviate dead zones in town, which have grown alongside the growth of cell-data usage in recent years.
For every call, text, app used and any other so-called “data event” cell phone towers pick up signals, and each tower is only able to handle about 1,200 simultaneously. Verizon says another tower is needed to accommodate this, and in other nearby towns, cell towers are placed about 6 miles apart.
According to the company’s attorney, Jared Lusk, from Nixon Peabody, fixing these dead zones assures that Verizon keeps its Federal Communication Commission (FCC) license, by providing “substantial service to its licensed area.”
“Verizon Wireless is always exploring opportunities to improve its network on behalf of our customers,” said the company in a statement. “The tower is designed to enhance 4G/LTE coverage and capacity for our customers on State Route 85 and County Route 443, including the Clarksville Hamlet area, in the southwester portion of the Town of New Scotland.”