By Neal Rentz
Nelsonville zoning and planning board members and residents expressed skepticism about a possible alternative design for a cell tower during a joint meeting of the Nelsonville Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board which was held to discuss a proposal from Homeland Towers on April 4 at Haldane High School.
Following months of intense scrutiny over a proposed cell tower, the Zoning Board of Appeals members recently agreed to delay their vote on the application after the applicant provided three alternative designs to the 110-foot tower.
For months, Homeland has received unwavering opposition from residents regarding the 110-foot cell tower they want to build off Rockledge Road overlooking the historic Cold Spring Cemetery.
The proposed tower would serve Verizon and AT&T with possibly more carriers and emergency services to follow.
Homeland attorney Robert Gaudioso previously proposed a 125-foot obelisk that would conceal the antennas and be very “site-specific.” He said the tower would require a height variance and approval from the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHIPO.)
At last week’s joint meeting Gaudioso said the only alternative now being proposed by Homeland Towers would be a 110-foot flagpole that would not require a variance. Two of the previously consider proposals would have required a variance, he said.
The alternative now is for the 110-flagpole, which would not expose the antennas, Gaudioso said. “The antennas would all be in the flagpole,” he said.
Gaudioso said the State Historic Preservation Officer found no adverse effects or aesthetic impacts to the area from the proposed flagpole. But some board members questioned the alternative. Planning member Dennis Meekins said the alternative still calls for a tall structure in a wooded area and it would be seen. Gaudioso replied by saying, a cell tower has been constructed in a similar type of area near a cemetery in Mount Pleasant.
ZBA member Chris Keeley said the proposed flagpole would still have a negative visual impact to the area and he disputed the comments from Gaudioso that SHPO approved the alternative. But Gaudioso said the state agency stated its belief that the proposed flagpole would not have a negative “visual impact” to the area.
Some residents who spoke at last week’s meeting expressed opposition to a cell tower or a flagpole at the cemetery site because it would be unattractive for the area. Eliza Matthews said a flagpole would be visible in the neighborhood and she opposed the concept. Another resident, Carolyn Llewellyn, said the cemetery location was inappropriate for a cell tower or flagpole and another location should be sought by Homeland Towners.
“It’s a no brainer,” she said. “We want to keep the beautiful community we have.”
The two boards voted unanimously last week to close the oral public hearing on the cell tower project. Written comments are being accepted until April 16.
The next meeting on the proposed cell tower has been scheduled for April 30 at 7:30 p.m. at a site to be announced.