Residents Hold Little Sway in Patterson Cell Tower Decision

The location of the proposed cell phone tower in Putnam Lake.
The location of the proposed cell phone tower in Putnam Lake.

By Sara Dunn

On Saturday March 10 at 9:30 a.m., when Patterson residents drive by the Putnam Lake Fire Department and see a crane stretching into the sky what they will be seeing is a representation of what a 140 cell phone tower will look like that is proposed for that particular site.

Because the height of the cell phone tower proposed by Verizon Wireless does not conform with the town’s zoning code the matter is now before the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and a public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10 at the Patterson Recreation Center for the community to ask questions and offer comment on the installation of the cell phone tower.

At a recent Patterson Town Board meeting at which the subject of the proposed cell phone tower was raised when the Town Board voted to approve contracting with a radio frequency engineer to review the proposal, Putnam Lake resident Joe Francis questioned what benefit the cell phone tower would have, as based on his recent research in changing wireless service, he found Verizon’s coverage to be the most comprehensive in the area.

Patterson Town Supervisor Michael Griffin suggested Francis attend the public hearing and offer comment.

“That’s actually a good question to bring to the ZBA when they have the public hearing, because one of the things they want to have the RF engineer for is to analyze the coverage as it currently exists and see if the tower is even warranted,” Griffin said. “[It’s] certainly going to be an obvious tower.”

But according to a review of FCC rules, there is very little a town can do to deny the installation of a cell phone tower.

This was confirmed by Patterson Town Planner Richard Williams.

“Municipal review and approval is very restricted,” Williams said regarding the FCC rules, one of which dictates that a town must approve an application within 150 days unless both parties agree to an extension, which is the case currently with Verizon.

According to published reports, the town of Irondequoit, N.Y., situated on the coast of Lake Ontario, delayed an application for a cell phone tower for nine months and last year was sued by Verizon for that reason. A U.S. District Court judge later ordered the town to approve the application of a 120-foot cell phone tower behind the local firehouse.

In 1996 a federal law was passed that barred municipalities from denying an application based on concerns that a cell phone tower could potentially pose a health risk to nearby residents.

Williams confirmed this, too.

“According to FCC rules, municipalities cannot consider the health effects of a telecommunications facility,” he said.

Williams said the town’s zoning board of appeals could weigh in on the most appropriate location and the most appropriate height of the proposed tower.

In the event of inclement weather, the crane test offering an example of what the cell phone tower will look like once constructed, will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 17.

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