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Planning Board Minutes 08/26/08

A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, August 26, 2008 in the Municipal Building.

MEMBERS PRESENT:        Chris Kehoe, Chairman
                                Fran Allen
Vincent Andrews

                         ABSENT:        Mark Aarons
                                        Robert Luntz
                                                                                                                                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.


·       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.

Robert Gaudioso and Adam Moss from Snyder & Snyder, LLP; Anthony Gioffre from Cuddy & Feder, LLP; Manny Vicente of Homeland Towers, Inc.; and Glenn Pierson of PierCon Solutions were present for the Applicant.

The Village’s consultant for the project Frank Rodriguez of RCC Consultants, Inc. was also present.

Mr. Gaudioso said that the Applicant has no objections to any of the findings in the most recent RCC report dated August 21, 2008.  Mr. Gaudioso told the board members that he would be happy to answer any additional questions on this project that the board might have.

Chairman Kehoe noted that Cara Bonomolo of Snyder & Snyder was present on behalf of the Applicant at the June 10th Planning Board meeting.  At that time, the Planning Board had requested that the Applicant prepare a written summary/report on the history of this application.  Mr. Gaudioso referred to his most recent letter to the Planning Board dated August 5, 2008 and noted that item #1 of his letter gives the history of the project.  Briefly, in 2006, the Applicant, Nextel, came before the Village Board with a proposal to put the cell tower by the canoe launch site.  There were concerns expressed about the aesthetic and/or visual impacts of the tower in this location.  Also, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had concerns about the effects on the bald eagle and other migratory birds.  The cell tower being proposed has since been moved 1,250 feet to the north, which eliminates the concern about the visual impacts and the DEC’s concern about the potential avian impacts.  Moving the tower also eliminates the need for a Village Wetlands Activity Permit.  Mr. Gaudioso noted that, on September 8, 2007, a crane test was conducted at the new cell tower location to assess the visual impacts.  

Mr. Gaudioso said that, in so far as collocation on the cell tower is concerned, Omnipoint (T-Mobile) has been added to the list of carriers. Also, Verizon has expressed their interest in collocating on the tower and has provided a letter to this effect.

Mr. Gaudioso noted that the Applicant expects a full “build out” of this cell tower facility.

Mr. Gaudioso told the board that the Applicant’s site plan has been revised in accordance with RCC’s comments from the last Planning Board meeting.  Also, the FCC license information requested by RCC has been submitted. Finally, the additional information requested by RCC in the Critical Environmental Area (CEA) Impact Report has been provided.

Mr. Gaudioso noted to the board that the lease agreement on the cell tower that Nextel signed with the Village has been amended.  The lease has been assigned to Homeland Towers, Inc.

Ms. Allen questioned whether the required responses from government agencies on the Applicant’s avian impact(s) report and the CEA report had been provided in the materials submitted.  She did not find any paperwork to that effect.  Mr. Gaudioso said that the DEC has, indeed, responded to the Applicant’s report on the avian impacts.  Mr. Gaudioso noted that, in so far as the CEA report is concerned, by code, the Lead Agency for this application would be the Village Board.  The Village Board will have to review the CEA study and incorporate their comments on this study into their SEQRA findings.  Furthermore, the CEA study will have to be reviewed by the Waterfront Advisory Committee (WAC). Mr. Gaudioso noted that, with respect to the avian report, the Applicant has followed the DEC’s recommendations. By federal law, under the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) there must be assurance(s) that there would be no adverse impacts on threatened or endangered species.  Ms. Allen pointed out that the request for the avian report was generated by the WAC at their first meeting on this (the cell tower) application at which time the issue was raised about the potential impacts on the bald eagle and other migratory birds.  Mr. Gaudioso told Ms. Allen that the DEC’s answer to this issue was to move the cell tower 1,250 feet to the north.  Mr. Gaudioso noted that the Applicant also contacted the US Fish & Wildlife Service and they said to consult the DEC regarding these matters. Ms. Allen said that she would like to have as part of the record the DEC response(s).  The Village would want to be certain that the criteria for the CEA are being satisfied.

Ms. Allen said that the Planning Board had requested at the last meeting to be provided with photographs of other cell towers that have four or five carriers/collocators.  Mr. Gaudioso noted that, at the last meeting, the Applicant had given the Planning Board the address (location) of such a cell tower. He brought with him to the meeting tonight a photograph of a cell tower, which would be very similar to the one being proposed in the Village.  He distributed the photograph to the board members.  Ms. Allen noted that the Planning Board had asked to see photographs of the cell tower in Hawthorne, to which Mr. Gaudioso replied that the one in Hawthorne is not like the one being proposed for the Village.  The one in the photograph distributed tonight is “exactly the type of facility that is being proposed here.”  The Village Engineer asked how many carriers were on this tower, to which Mr. Gaudioso said, “five.”  Mr. Gaudioso noted that the one difference between the tower in the photograph and that which is being proposed for the Village is that the carriers on the Village’s tower would be staggered differently.  Ms. Allen pointed out to Mr. Gaudioso that the Planning Board is less concerned about the look of the tower (itself) as they are about the look when it is populated.

Chairman Kehoe noted that there was a discussion at the June 10th meeting about whether the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) had any difference of opinion about the overall tower height being 143.8 feet versus 140 feet.  Chairman Kehoe had asked whether, with respect to SHPO’s review of this application, SHPO had a difference of opinion about the tower being populated with five sets of antennas rather than three.  Mr. Gaudioso explained to the Planning Board his understanding of these matters concerning SHPO stating that, according to the Federal Council of Historic Preservation, if the tower is built and a “no adverse effect” letter had been received, the tower could have equipment added to it. Then, no additional review by SHPO is necessary.  Chairman Kehoe noted that at the June 10th meeting a discussion ensued about whether SHPO’s May 4, 2007 letter saying that the cell tower would have no adverse effects would still hold true, given the additional carriers on the tower.  It was Ms. Bonomolo’s understanding that this letter would still hold true.  Chairman Kehoe asked Mr. Gaudioso if he felt the same way about SHPO’s May 4th letter, to which Mr. Gaudioso said that he did.

Ms. Allen asked whether the Planning Board had all of the necessary documentation on coverage.  She recalled that, at the last meeting, the Applicant explained to the board members that the coverage maps show the combined coverage for all three carriers.  The maps are not “broken out” specifically for each carrier. Ms. Allen noted that the Applicant’s coverage report takes into consideration cell towers in the surrounding area.  She did not recall whether these towers exist or are being planned.  Mr. Gaudioso told Ms. Allen that the PierCon Solutions report explains how the coverage was calculated.  Mr. Gaudioso said that, according to the Village Code, the Applicant has to prove that the existing structures do not provide the necessary coverage.  Then, drive tests have to be performed to demonstrate how each carrier would have coverage in the area.  Chairman Kehoe noted that, even with the cell tower presently being proposed, the Village is not going to have 100% coverage.  Mr. Pierson explained the reason for the gap, stating that there are a great many terrain variations in the Village.  Signals would be lost up and down hills and around bends.  Mr. Andrews noted that the coverage maps reviewed at the last meeting showed that there were gaps.  Mr. Pierson said that they (the Applicant) postulated, in their coverage analysis, having the maximum number of carriers on surrounding sites and even with this being the case, there would be a gap.  Mr. Pierson stated that, to achieve the smallest possible gap in coverage, they came to the conclusion that the minimum acceptable height of the tower at the DPW site would have to be 100 feet.

Chairman Kehoe said that it is his understanding that RCC does not have a problem with either the Applicant’s Radio Frequency Report or the Applicant’s Radio Frequency Emissions Report.  One report (radio frequency) has to do with coverage and the other (emissions) has to do with public safety.  Mr. Rodriguez referred the Planning Board to his most recent report dated August 21, 2008 and stated that, as indicated in his report, the Applicant has remedied all of the deficiencies that he had noted at the last Planning Board meeting.  

Mr. Rodriguez pointed out to the board that an unanswered item had to do with the SHPO issue.  He deferred this matter regarding SHPO and the tower height discrepancy (143.8 feet versus 140 feet) to Frederick P. Clark Associates (FPCA), the Village’s environmental consultant.  Mr. Rodriguez stated that the Village Engineer has since received an email from FPCA stating that they have contacted SHPO, and Mr. Ken Markunas at SHPO told them that the incremental change in the tower height is not significant enough to warrant another submittal to SHPO and their (SHPO’s) original determination of “no adverse effect” would still apply.

Mr. Rodriguez stated that the only other items that were open were the review by the Planning Board of photographs of similar cell towers in neighboring towns and, given the discrepancy regarding the tower height, a (further) review by the Village Engineer of the setback requirements.  Chairman Kehoe asked the Village Engineer if, indeed, the 3.8-foot difference in height would have an impact on the setbacks, to which the Village Engineer replied that this difference in the height would not have any impact.  The Village Engineer explained that there is a buffer at this (the cell tower) location, and adding the extra 3.8 feet would not create a problem with the Village’s setbacks.

Chairman Kehoe referred to the Applicant’s (Nextel’s) correspondence to the Village, dated July 24, 2008, stating that Nextel has transferred its lease to a different company (Homeland Towers, LLC).  Mr. Gaudioso told the board members that, for financial reasons, Nextel has stopped building sites in the area.  Mr. Gaudioso said that the lease “allows for an assignee.”  The assignee, Homeland Towers, would construct and maintain the facility.  The carriers would still operate and construct their own equipment.  Mr. Gaudioso pointed out that this company, Homeland Towers, “saved the tower project for Nextel and made it possible to build even though Nextel had financial reasons not to.”  

The Village Engineer suggested that, in so far as this matter concerning the lease is concerned, the Planning Board should recommend to the Village Board that this matter be forwarded to the Village Attorney for his review.

Chairman Kehoe suggested that, at this juncture, the Planning Board could discuss the contents of its memorandum to the Village Board on this (the cell tower) application. Chairman Kehoe noted that the memorandum should contain a complete list of the documents, reports, plans, etc. that have been received by the Planning Board.  He suggested that the Applicant could assist the Planning Board in the preparation of this memorandum by providing such a list.  Chairman Kehoe noted further that in conjunction with the Applicant’s going before the Village Board for the Special Permit, the Applicant would also have to go before the WAC for a determination of consistency with the policies of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP).     

The Village Engineer suggested that the Planning Board’s memorandum should include any items that the Planning Board feels should be brought to the Village Board’s (special) attention.  He gave as examples the impacts of the cell tower on eagles and other migratory birds and the visual impacts.     

Chairman Kehoe noted that the Planning Board would want to say in its memorandum that, in the course of the Planning Board’s review of this application, the proposed cell tower was relocated to a site 1,250 feet north of where it was originally proposed.

Chairman Kehoe suggested that the memorandum to the Village Board could say that the Planning Board “studied” a proposal involving five carriers collocating on the cell tower, and the Planning Board does not have a problem with (the collocation of) five carriers.

The Village Engineer said that it should be noted in the memorandum that the Village should hire a structural engineering consultant firm for the installation/construction phase of the cell tower.  The Village should be provided with a report on the logistics of the construction. Finally, the construction of the tower should take place on Saturdays when the commuter parking lot is not as full.  

The Village Engineer said that, for safety purposes, the DPW wants to have the opportunity to put flood lights into the parking lot.  There is a dead spot at that corner of the lot.  The DPW would like to place a flood light on the customer poles. The lighting installed by the DPW would be for the illumination of the parking lot.  There would be no lights on the tower itself.

The Village Engineer told the Applicant that, with respect to the cell tower, there should be no interference with any existing equipment at the DPW site.  Mr. Gaudioso noted that, as was the case with the Village Hall rooftop installation, there would be a condition in the resolution to the effect that the cell tower “shall not interfere with, or cause harmful interference to, existing devices.”

Mr. Gaudioso said that by next week he would have the draft memorandum prepared and would email it to the Planning Board secretary for the Planning Board’s review.

The Village Engineer said that it should be noted in the Planning Board’s memorandum to the Village Board that there is a need for the cell tower due to the poor cell phone service in the Village.  Ms. Allen said that expectations of better service should not be raised too high. Even with the cell tower there would be gaps in service.  Mr. Gaudioso noted that, indeed, it is clear from the Applicant’s coverage maps that there would still be gaps.  

The Village Engineer reminded the Applicant that they would have to schedule a meeting before the WAC. Ms. Allen noted to the Applicant that the WAC does not meet on a regular basis.  The Committee meets when a LWRP determination of consistency review is required.  Ms. Allen said that she would think that there would not be much more for the WAC to discuss in this case.  The WAC did a thorough analysis of the project when the Applicant first came before them.  Mr. Gaudioso noted to those present that the WAC was the impetus behind the Applicant’s moving the tower to the north and away from the canoe launch.  Mr. Gaudioso suggested that he could be in contact with the Village Engineer’s office to set up a meeting with the WAC.  

Chairman Kehoe asked if there were any further comments, to which there were none.

Chairman Kehoe entertained a motion to recommend to the Village Board that they grant the Special Permit for the cell tower at the DPW site subject to the comments/conditions discussed tonight.   The motion was made by Mr. Andrews, seconded by Ms. Allen and carried by a vote of 3 to 0.  


The minutes of the Tuesday, July 22, 2008 Planning Board meeting were approved, as amended, on a motion by Ms. Allen, seconded by Mr. Andrews and carried by a vote of 3 to 0.  


There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was duly adjourned at 9:10 P.M.


Sylvia Mills