Planning Board Minutes 06/10/08

VILLAGE OF CROTON ON HUDSON, NEW YORK

PLANNING BOARD MEETING MINUTES – TUESDAY, JUNE 10, 2008

A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 in the Municipal Building.

MEMBERS PRESENT:        Chris Kehoe, Chairman
Fran Allen
Vincent Andrews
                                        
                ABSENT: Robert Luntz
Deven Sharma
                                                                                        
                 ALSO PRESENT:  Daniel O’Connor, P.E., Village Engineer

        
1.  Call to Order:

The meeting was called to order at 8:00 P.M. by Chairman Kehoe.

2.  OLD BUSINESS:

·       Nextel of New York, Inc., New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC and Omnipoint Communications, Inc. – Referral  from the Village Board for a Special Permit for the Collocation of a Personal Wireless Services Facility at the DPW Facility, Veteran’s Plaza – Report from the Village’s Consultant, RCC Consultants, Inc.

Francis Rodriguez, M.S., Associate Director of RCC Consultants, Inc., was present.

Cara Bonomolo of Snyder & Snyder, LLP; Daniel Laub of Cuddy & Feder, LLP and Glenn Pierson of PierCon Solutions were present to represent the Applicant.

Ms. Bonomolo told the board members that she is here tonight on behalf of Nextel of New York and Omnipoint Communications, and Daniel Laub of Cuddy & Feder is here on behalf of New Cingular Wireless.

Ms. Bonomolo stated that the proposal before the Planning Board is for a 140-foot monopole.  The total height of the structure (cell tower) including the antennae would be 143’8”.  Ms. Bonomolo said that since the last meeting, the Applicant has submitted a radio frequency engineering report prepared by PierCon Solutions dated March 28, 2008. The Applicant is in receipt of the comments from the Village’s consultant, RCC Consultants, Inc.  Ms. Bonomolo suggested that she could go through RCC’s comments with the Planning Board tonight.  Ms. Bonomolo noted to the Planning Board members that the radio frequency report, prepared by PierCon Solutions, demonstrates the need for a cell tower facility at the DPW site.

Chairman Kehoe asked if the coverage maps submitted for tonight’s meeting are the first to be submitted for the new cell tower location, to which Ms. Bonomolo said that, indeed, they are.  

Chairman Kehoe asked Ms. Bonomolo if there had been a report from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) on the new location, to which Ms. Bonomolo replied that the Applicant had received a response from SHPO, dated May 4, 2007, which concluded that the cell tower proposal at the DPW site would have no adverse impacts. She noted that Robert Gaudioso of Snyder & Snyder makes reference to this letter in his correspondence to Mayor Schmidt and the Village Board dated July 16, 2007.

Mr. Andrews asked if identifying a gap in coverage is a requirement of the Village Code, to which Ms. Bonomolo replied that the Applicant has to prove that there is a need for the facility, which is the purpose of the Independent Radio Frequency Report.  

Ms. Allen recalled that at a previous meeting, there was a discussion on the visual impacts, and a suggestion was made that it would be helpful for the Planning Board to see a cell tower that would be similar in appearance.  A tower in Hawthorne was cited.  Ms. Allen said that she is not sure that there was ever any closure on the visual aspects of the cell tower being proposed.  Chairman Kehoe recalled that Mr. Gaudioso was present when the discussion on the visual impacts took place.  During the discussion the Applicant described to the Planning Board what the top of the cell tower would look like, the colors of towers, etc.  He (Chairman Kehoe) realizes that tonight’s discussion is on the radio frequency question(s), but he would think that the Planning Board has not yet “closed the book on” the aesthetic issues.  Ms. Bonomolo suggested that she could do some follow up on the visual aspects. She could identify local cell towers that the Planning Board might want to take a look at.

Ms. Bonomolo noted to the board members that, besides Verizon Wireless, another (fifth) carrier has expressed an interest in collocating on the cell tower. The name of the carrier is Metro PCS. Ms. Bonomolo said that the Applicant would be willing to provide to the Planning Board simulated (computer) renderings showing what the fifth level of antennas for this (fifth) carrier would look like.

Ms. Allen pointed out that the Waterfront Advisory Committee (WAC) would need to hold another meeting on this cell tower application.  The WAC has not yet discussed the new location at the DPW site presently being proposed. Ms. Allen noted to Ms. Bonomolo that, among other items, the WAC would be interested in the visual impacts and the impacts on wildlife.

Chairman Kehoe said that, in so far as this application is concerned, he would think that the Planning Board needs to have a clearer understanding of “where we are” in the process.  It would be helpful to the Planning Board in their review to have an outline prepared of the documents submitted and/or a summary of what has transpired thus far.  Ms. Bonomolo suggested that, for the next meeting, the Applicant could provide this summary.  

Ms. Bonomolo referred to RCC’s report to the Planning Board dated June 5, 2008 and noted that there is a discussion in items 1 through 6 of the report regarding the height of the cell tower facility.  Ms. Bonomolo stated that in many of the documents submitted by the Applicant the height is indicated as 140 feet; however, the height would extend to 143’8” with the antennas included. Ms. Bonomolo said that, “The antennas have always been shown this way on the plans, but we [the Applicant] will revise the plans to specifically call that out.”  Ms. Bonomolo noted that the height of 143’8” would still comply with the 150-foot height limitation set forth in the Village Code.  

Mr. Rodriguez told the board that, with respect to his discussion on the height, he wanted to eliminate any confusion about what the board was approving.  The Village Code addresses a tower, and a tower consists of a monopole and anything that raises the height to a higher level. Mr. Rodriguez said that the Applicant was confusing the 140-foot monopole with the taller structure, which is the tower. Mr. Rodriguez said that the overall height of the structure is a critical element. The setback requirements are a function of the total height of the structure.  Mr. Rodriguez noted to the Planning Board that the visual and environmental documentation should be consistent. Any inconsistencies/discrepancies should be eliminated. Ms. Bonomolo said that the plans have always shown a 140-foot monopole with antennae above. The documentation was based on the plans.  Chairman Kehoe referred to the June 6, 2007 plans and noted that the monopole is shown at 140 feet with the antennas extending above, to which Ms. Bonomolo said that they (the Applicant) would revise these plans to say 143’8” with the antennas.  The Village Engineer pointed out that in the Critical Environmental Area Impact Analysis Report the plan shows the height as 130 feet, to which Ms. Bonomolo said that this is an error. She noted that the text of that report lists the height as 140 feet.  Unfortunately, the elevation drawing shows the height as 130 feet. Chairman Kehoe asked if SHPO reviewed this report (CEA Impact Analysis Report), to which Ms. Bonomolo said that they did not. She reiterated that the Applicant would revise the plans to call out the specific height.

Ms. Bonomolo referred to Recommendation #2 in the RCC report pertaining to the verification of ground elevation and geographic coordinates for the antenna structure. Ms. Bonomolo said that RCC noted discrepancies between the Applicant’s site plan and the radio frequency report.  Ms. Bonomolo told the board members that the Applicant’s radio frequency engineering firm, PierCon Solutions, has prepared a letter dated June 6, 2008 in response to RCC’s comments.  She distributed the letter to the Planning Board members.  Ms. Bonomolo said the letter explains that the drive tests utilized a crane at a different location approximately 100 feet to the east.  The Applicant’s radio frequency engineer concluded that the difference is insignificant and does not have any impact on the radio frequency report.  Chairman Kehoe noted that Mr. Rodriguez of RCC has not yet had an opportunity to review this “new” letter from PierCon Solutions.  He (Chairman Kehoe) would assume that Mr. Rodriguez would need to review the letter and provide a written response, to which Mr. Rodriguez said that this is, indeed, the case.     

Ms. Bonomolo read aloud RCC’s Recommendation #3 and said that, as requested, the Applicant would submit a revised RF Safety Report correcting the error in the report pertaining to the Omnipoint antenna.

Ms. Bonomolo noted that Recommendation #4 relates to the email that RCC sent to Snyder & Snyder dated May 30, 2008.  Ms. Bonomolo stated that, with respect to item 1 in the email regarding the submission to the Village of the FCC licenses, the Applicant would review their submissions to the Village thus far to make certain that these licenses have all been provided.   Items 2 and 3 have been addressed in the PierCon Solutions letter submitted to the board tonight.  Item 4 pertains to the issues, already discussed tonight, relating to the height of the tower.  Item 5 asks for new concurrence statements from the operators of the cell tower.  Ms. Bonomolo noted that the Applicant intends to submit to RCC these new concurrence statements. Item 6 asks for a new letter of interest from Verizon Wireless.  The Applicant is in the process of obtaining this letter from Verizon.   

Ms. Bonomolo said that the Applicant would address RCC’s comments regarding the SHPO submission. Ms. Bonomolo gave to the Planning Board secretary a copy of the Applicant’s NT (New Tower) Submission Packet FCC Form 620 submitted to SHPO.  

The Village Engineer noted that the Applicant has said that there are five carriers interested in collocating at this site. The Village Engineer asked if Metro PCS is a “confirmed interest.”  He suggested that the Applicant could provide to the board some additional information on this carrier.  The Village Engineer said that if the fifth carrier, Metro PCS, were not going to collocate on the cell tower, the height of the tower could be dropped by 10 feet.  Mr. Rodriguez brought up the matter of the minimum acceptable height of the cell tower.  He said that if the Applicant were to choose to stay with “the higher height,” then the minimum height of 100 feet would still be valid.  He noted that the PierCon report would not be valid if the lowest level were 97 feet.  Mr. Rodriguez said that his problem concerning consistency would be resolved if it were the case that the Applicant supports the “higher height.” Ms. Bonomolo told Mr. Rodriguez that the Applicant’s plan says that the minimum acceptable height is 100 feet.  Ms. Allen asked if, when discussing this issue regarding the minimum acceptable height, the Applicant is referring to radio frequency exposure, to which Ms. Bonomolo said, yes.  Mr. Rodriguez added that each new carrier (also) has the responsibility to provide a radio frequency safety report. Ms. Allen said that it is her understanding that the height issue is related to the coverage, to which Mr. Rodriguez replied that this is true.  He said, “Once you have established the coverage, then you analyze [the project] in terms of safety.”   

The Village Engineer noted that the coverage maps are combined coverage maps for all three carriers.  He asked if separate maps would show anything different in terms of coverage, to which Mr. Rodriguez said that he would not think so.  Mr. Rodriguez said that they (all three carriers) have “bought into” the PierCon report, but he wanted a broad statement [of concurrence] from each carrier.  

Mr. Rodriguez stated that he read the PierCon radio frequency report in great detail.  This report takes the “worst case approach” to reaching the size of the coverage gap.  Mr. Rodriguez said that even with the approach that PierCon takes and assuming that the height of the tower would stay at 143’8”, he (Mr. Rodriguez) would think that the Applicant has presented a good case for concluding that there is a significant coverage gap. The Village Engineer said that, as he understands the report, there would be a coverage gap even with all these carriers populating the surrounding sites, to which Mr. Rodriguez said that this is the correct reading of the report.  Mr. Rodriguez told the board members that if the approach in the analysis is conservative, and each carrier “buys into this approach,” then he would have no problem with PierCon’s analysis, as presented.

Ms. Allen told the Applicant that she had heard that the drive tests conducted to analyze the coverage gap were not effective, to which Mr. Rodriguez responded that if these tests were done when the leaves were off the trees, then the coverage would, indeed, be over-estimated.  Ms. Bonomolo said that one of the concerns with the drive tests was the foliage.  If the tests were performed in the winter when the leaves were off the trees, then better coverage would be indicated.  However, the tests were performed in September when there was full foliage, so the drive tests would reflect a “worst case scenario.”

Chairman Kehoe noted that Verizon and Metro PCS are not a part of the report(s) submitted, to which Ms. Bonomolo said that, indeed, they are not; however, both these carriers have indicated an interest in collocating on the cell tower. Verizon would collocate at 110 feet and Metro PCS at 100 feet.

Mr. Rodriguez reiterated that the Applicant has proposed a structure that would accommodate a fifth user.  Metro PCS has just issued a statement that they have filed for 89 locations in New Jersey.  They are presently in Florida and California, but they are moving into this area.  Mr. Rodriguez said that he would think it would be in the interest of the Village to have a structure that could accommodate an additional user.  If Metro PCS were to become a viable carrier, and the tower could not accommodate them, they would be looking into the possibility of installing another structure (tower).

Chairman Kehoe noted that the Applicant’s drawings from a year ago show levels at 120, 130 and 140 feet.  He asked if the visual analysis provided to SHPO took into account the five levels presently being considered, to which Ms. Bonomolo said that she believes that the visual analysis showed four levels rather than five. Chairman Kehoe asked if it would matter to SHPO that they signed off on four levels when it might end up being five.  Ms. Bonomolo said that she does not know if SHPO would be concerned about a fourth or fifth carrier collocating on the cell tower.  Mr. Rodriguez noted to the board members that, with respect to the visual impacts, he has asked the Applicant to provide to the Planning Board additional visual renderings. At this point, the visual report shows only the computer-enhanced presentation of the tower with the four levels of antennae.  He has asked the Applicant to provide another computer-generated visual rendering showing five levels.  Mr. Rodriguez noted that the board should also have images (photographs) of just the crane without anything on it at all.       

The Village Engineer questioned what the visual impact of the cell tower would be on commuters at the train station.  He suggested that there could be other vantage points from which to create the visual imagery.  Ms. Allen pointed out that, in so far as the visual impacts are concerned, the more “stuff” that is on the tower, the worse it becomes from a visual perspective.

Ms. Allen questioned the amount of coverage that would be gained from the installation of the cell tower at the DPW site.  She would want to know what the actual increase in the amount of coverage would be.  Ms. Allen said that rather than reading a report that postulates the amount of coverage based on the potential collocation of carriers on neighboring towers, rooftops, etc., she would want to know what the coverage would be based on building this (the proposed) tower.  Ms. Bonomolo referred Ms. Allen to Exhibit D of the PierCon Solutions report and stated that this exhibit shows the existing and proposed coverage with the antennae of each carrier located at 100 feet.  The existing coverage is designated by the color green and the proposed coverage is in off-blue.  The Village Engineer added that Exhibit B of the PierCon report shows the existing composite collocation site coverage.

Glenn Pierson of PierCon Solutions suggested that he could speak to the board on the issue of coverage as he was the author of the subject (PierCon) report.  Mr. Pierson said that most of the surrounding cellular facilities are on the rooftops of buildings.  There are anywhere between two and four carriers at these (rooftop) sites. Mr. Pierson noted that the coverage (for the Village) is dictated by the hills.  The surrounding hillsides block the signals.  Mr. Pierson showed the board a map of the terrain and said that the blue dots represent the existing cellular facilities e.g. Browning Drive, Executive Boulevard, the Municipal Building, etc. Mr. Pierson said that the low area of the Village is where the problem with coverage is. Mr. Pierson said that, with respect to the proposed tower at the DPW site, there is a point where, by going up far enough, the tree line would be cleared.  That is the critical point where 100 feet makes a difference.  After the bump at 100 feet is cleared, the height could be 150 feet (maximum) but it would not make a difference, the reason being that the signal would be blocked by the hills. These hills are anywhere from 300 to 400 feet high.  Mr. Pierson reiterated that the coverage in this area, or the lack thereof, is dictated by the surrounding hillsides.

Mr. Pierson explained how the minimum acceptable height of 100 feet was established. In their analysis, they postulated having the maximum number of carriers on all of the available (surrounding) sites.  Mr. Pierson said that, in the end, their goal is (always) to achieve the smallest possible hole (gap) in coverage.  The best case scenario for achieving the smallest possible gap would be to have the minimum acceptable height of the tower at the DPW site at 100 feet.  Mr. Pierson noted to the board that Exhibit B of his report shows the smallest possible gap in coverage that could be achieved.  

Chairman Kehoe questioned what would happen, in so far as the coverage in the Village is concerned, if the tower at the DPW site were to be installed and all five service providers were on the tower, but no changes had taken place on the other surrounding sites (no more carriers added). He would think that the map, now being presented, would not show as much of an area in green (green = area covered).  Mr. Pierson said that the map being presented is “kind of a radio frequency master plan.”  Ms. Allen asked Mr. Pierson if there were an alternative to the DPW site that would offer an equally good “master plan” e.g. putting the cellular facility on top of a hill, to which Mr. Pierson said that putting it on top of a hill would be putting it in a residential area. The site presently being proposed is in a commercial district and is 2,000 feet away from the nearest residential area.  Mr. Pierson said that another detriment of the facility being on top of a hill is the interference that it would cause with the existing cell phone service. “It would create dropped calls on the other side of the river because you have to point the antennas in that way.”  Chairman Kehoe questioned if, perhaps, there could be a map that is “greener” with another (alternative) location for the cell tower. Mr. Pierson said that they would want to be able to cover all the low areas of the Village. They would not want to go farther inland from the area where the tower is presently being proposed because of the hills blocking the signals.  Mr. Pierson said that, “Once I get into the hills, then I’m going to lose green.”

Ms. Allen said that she would think that, with respect to this cell tower proposal, “We cannot promise that it [the cell tower] is going to improve everyone’s access.”  Ms. Allen pointed out that residents living farther up the hillside, for example, are not going to be benefited at all by this cell tower.  Mr. Pierson said that, granted, it would not benefit these residents at their homes; however, if they were to come down the hill and into town, it would benefit them. Mr. Pierson told the board members that the areas (of the Village) in the northeastern section would require another solution.

Mr. Andrews said that he would be somewhat concerned about trying to find another location for the cell tower at this point in the process. Ms. Allen noted that the Village boards that are responsible for reviewing this proposal would want to give an honest expectation to the residents of what the coverage would be.  She noted that the coverage maps were looked at earlier in the process, and statements were made publicly that the cell tower would provide much larger coverage; however, if one were to look at the map carefully, one would see that a significant amount of the Village is not going to be covered.  Chairman Kehoe said that it is clear from the map that certain portions would not have coverage.  Mr. Pierson pointed out that a large population of the Village is going to benefit because a large number of people live in this area (the area covered).

Chairman Kehoe told the Applicant that for the next meeting they should prepare, for the Planning Board’s use, an outline of the documents submitted thus far for this (the Nextel) cell tower application. The Applicant should address the issues raised in RCC’s memorandum to the Planning Board dated June 5, 2008.  

At this juncture, Daniel Laub of Cuddy & Feder came forward and told the Planning Board that he is present at the meeting tonight to represent AT&T.  His office also represents Metro PCS.  Mr. Laub said that Metro PCS has set up a network of cellular facilities in 19 out of 25 of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States.  They are in the process of constructing a network in New York.  Mr. Laub said that his firm would be willing to provide more information to the Planning Board on Metro PCS, as requested by the Village Engineer earlier in the meeting tonight.

Mr. Rodriguez of RCC told the board members that, by way of summary, he would like to emphasize the comments he has made in his report(s) relative to inconsistencies and/or discrepancies in the Nextel cell tower application.  Mr. Rodriguez said that in a few years time, these records (application materials) for the cell tower would be stored away in files at the Village Hall. If another carrier were to decide to make an application to collocate at this site, this “new” carrier would need to look at the Village’s records.  The Village would want the information in their records to be consistent throughout.  Mr. Rodriguez said that if the information is inconsistent “on purpose,” then the Applicant needs to explain in writing the reasons why.  Mr. Rodriguez reiterated that this matter relative to inconsistencies in the materials submitted needs to be cleared up.  He would need to be able to conclude and agree that the application submitted is accurate and complete. Mr. Rodriguez stated that, if the Applicant were able to resolve these issues, then, he would have no problem with this application.

Mr. Rodriguez said again that he would want to see a letter from all parties (carriers) involved stating that they concur with PierCon’s radio frequency report.  It is very important that every party “buys into this information” so as to safeguard the capability of flexibility sought by the Village for cell tower installations.  Mr. Rodriguez referred the Planning Board members to the chapter in the Village Code on telecommunications towers and read verbatim Sec. 206-4B as follows:

“Any proposed tower shall be designed, structurally, electrically and in all respects, to accommodate both the applicant’s antennas and comparable antennas, whether using the same or different technologies, for at least three additional users if the tower is over 100 feet in height or for at least one additional user if the tower is over 60 feet in height.  Towers must be designed to allow for future rearrangement of antennas upon the tower and to accept antennas mounted at varying heights.”  

Mr. Andrews told the Applicant that he would like to “echo Mr. Rodriguez’s plea” for coordination and completeness of the materials submitted.  Mr. Andrews said that it would make the review process go much more smoothly to have the inconsistencies and/or inaccuracies in the materials cleared up.

The Village Engineer suggested that the Planning Board could arrange a time to make a site visit to another cell tower location.  Ms. Bonomolo suggested that she could obtain information on existing sites that are similar to the cell tower being proposed so that the Planning Board could plan a site visit.

The Village Engineer told the Applicant that once their submission is accurate and complete, they could schedule a meeting to come back before the Planning Board.  At that point in time, they would also need to schedule a meeting with the Waterfront Advisory Committee (WAC).  The Village Engineer noted to the Applicant that they would be in a position at that point to go back before the Village Board as well.

3.  APPROVAL OF MINUTES:

The minutes of the Tuesday, May 13, 2008 Planning Board meeting were approved, as amended, on a motion by Mr. Andrews, seconded by Ms. Allen and carried by a vote of 3 to 0.

4.  ADJOURNMENT:

There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was duly adjourned at 9:54 P.M.

Sincerely,



Sylvia Mills
Secretary