Warren County, N.Y., officials would like the Adirondack Park Agency to allow for taller towers to provide more cell coverage, permitting them to be built an additional 10 to 20 feet above the tree height.
(TNS) — Warren County, N.Y., officials would like the Adirondack Park Agency to allow for taller towers to provide more cell coverage.
The Board of Supervisors Economic Growth & Development & Higher Education Committee voted on Wednesday to forward to the full board a resolution requesting that the Adirondack Park Agency allow multiple cellular carriers to co-locate on one tower by permitting them to be an additional 10 to 20 feet above the tree height.
The resolution also asks the APA to consider allowing cellular antennas to be placed on water towers, hotels, ski lifts and government buildings.
In addition, the resolution is requesting that the APA change language saying that the towers be “substantially invisible” to “not readily discernible.”
The supervisors were not unanimous in agreeing to forward the resolution to the full board, with one member saying that it should stay away from a controversial issue such as this when there are other priorities.
Before making its decision, the committee heard comments opposed to the change from representatives from two environmental groups, and one in favor from former Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe, who served as executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board from 2005 to 2018 and is currently its communications director.
William Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, said it is important to recognize the progress that has already been made in expanding cell service in the Adirondacks. He said the county should not support weakening the guidelines.
“I would respectfully suggest that those guidelines have worked very well and the biggest obstacles have been economic and companies without enough customers,” he said.
Janeway said he is concerned that taller towers would have a negative impact on the environment and economy of the North Country.
Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, pointed out that several cellphone tower projects have been approved in the park in the last two decades. He said he would like to see more information about exactly where there are gaps.
“Good data should drive public policy,” he said.
Monroe said higher towers mean more customers and more revenue.
However, Monroe said the APA wants towers to be at or below the tree level, which limits the effectiveness of cell service.
“We shouldn’t be treated like a Third World country because we’re in the Adirondacks,” he said. “I think the majority of residents and visitors wouldn’t be offended by somewhat higher towers.”
Monroe also said visitors are concerned about not being able to get cellular service in much of the park, especially if they are out hiking.
Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer said she did not like the proposed changes.
“I feel like this is taking us backwards, and I don’t feel like the Adirondack Park necessarily needs higher towers. We have very mountainous terrain. Why aren’t we looking forward at new technology like 5G?” she said.
Monroe said proposing these policy changes are just to get the discussion going. He added that this COVID-19 pandemic has vividly illustrated the need that cell coverage needs to improve.
Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty said there have been maps of places lacking cell coverage.
Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson said the goal is not to cover every square inch of the Adirondack Park with cell coverage, but he has places where people cannot even get broadband coverage.
“I have teachers that come to my town hall to use my Wi-Fi because their current infrastructure is inadequate,” he said.
He is also hearing from dispatchers who experience dropped calls, so it is a safety issue, he said.
Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino got frustrated with Braymer’s comments.
“You live in Glens Falls. Why don’t you spend a couple of days with me in Lake Luzerne and see what it’s like to call Supervisor Geraghty. I start talking and I take two steps in a different directions and I lose him,” he said.
He said the park does not need more towers, but just needs them a little taller.
Johnsburg Supervisor Andrea Hogan said she is concerned that the supervisors are conflating the two issues — cellular service and broadband.
Hogan agrees that cell service needs to be improved, but said supervisors have other priorities.
“We all have a lot of really urgent things on our plates and this is a divisive topic that could have waited,” she said.
Braymer said another avenue the county could pursue is investing in the cellular infrastructure itself.
“Frankly, we probably don’t have the money to do it,” she said.
Board Chairman Frank Thomas said he does not understand the reasons for some supervisors’ concerns.
“I don’t understand the fear of asking the APA to adjust their policies. It seems like there’s an awful lot of fear here about discussion,” he said.
Hogan said she had no fear of discussion.
“I would just like to do it at a time when I don’t have the world blowing up around me,” she said.
Braymer and Hogan opposed the resolution. Voting in favor were: Queensbury-at-Large Supervisor Mike Wild, Chester Supervisor Craig Leggett, Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Jack Diamond, Glens Falls 2nd Ward Supervisor Peter McDevitt, Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson Queensbury-at-Large Supervisor Brad Magowan and Queensbury-at-Large Supervisor Rachel Seeber.
The full Board of Supervisors will take it up at its June 19 meeting.
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