It will take at least one more public hearing before Patterson’s Zoning Board of Appeals can determine whether or not to approve the variance needed for a Verizon wireless cell phone tower to be built on the grounds of the Putnam Lake Firehouse.
The variance stems from the height of the 140 foot flag pole, that would have antennas mounted within it and related equipment at the base. According to the Patterson Town Code, the maximum height of a permitted structure is 38 feet. Verizon is seeking a variance for 102 feet.
The holdup does not seem to be caused by any comments said during the hearing, but by questions the town’s radio frequency expert had sent to Verizon just prior to the public hearing held on April 10.
More than two dozen residents attended the public hearing held at the Patterson Recreation Center. Of the seven people who spoke, one being the attorney for the applicant, only one other person spoke in favor of having the proposed 140 foot cell tower.
“I am not a Verizon fan, but I think this is a good thing—for Verizon, for Putnam Lake Fire Department and for the rest of us,” said Charlie Cutter, who is a Putnam Lake resident. “I have Verizon and I don’t get any service by Putnam Lake Market or on Fairfield Drive.”
The residents who were against the tower expressed concerns over their property values, health and safety and their quality of life.
A recent crane test that was placed in the location, 72 Fairfield Drive, of the proposed flag pole that extended 140 feet in the air, was conducted last month and out of 15 different angles from which photos were taken, three seemed to show the structure as intrusive.
Jennifer Crivelli, who moved to Putnam Lake seven years ago with her husband, said that the tower in the middle of town would, “look ridiculous.”
“It does not fit in with the rest of the town,” she said. “If you do not like the quality of your service change providers, I have AT&T and I get four bars of service.”
Crivelli also spoke about the safety concerns associated with the possibility of the tower falling. There are three buildings, one residential and two commercial that are in the fall zone of the tower.
Residents questioned how much the fire department would be compensated for allowing the tower to be built and why Verizon could not add an antenna to the existing tower at Quail Ridge.
The attorney for Verizon explained that the company already has plans to put up an antenna at Quail Ridge, but needs the additional tower in Putnam Lake as well. She did acknowledge that Verizon and the fire department have a lease agreement, but said its terms are confidential.
A fire department is considered a private company that a municipality contracts out to use.
FCC rules give the town and the zoning board little control over whether a cell phone tower is installed.
“According to FCC rules, municipalities cannot consider the health effects of a telecommunications facility,” said Patterson Town Planner Richard Williams.
He 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.