MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Homeland Towers, the company seeking to build cell towers on Dixon Road and Croton Falls Road in Mahopac, said it will extend the “shot clock” deadline for its plans as the Planning Board awaits feedback from its technical consultant.
The Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 allows cell tower applicants to set a “shot clock” if it feels local boards aren’t responding quickly enough. The law states that state and local officials should ordinarily take no more than 90 days to act on wireless applications.
Originally, Homeland said the shot clock would begin on May 31, but at the Planning Board’s May 22 meeting, Robert Gaudioso, an attorney with Snyder & Snyder in Tarrytown, which represents Homeland Towers, confirmed that the clock would now begin on June 28 for both projects.
However, board members said they are focusing right now on the plan at 254 Croton Falls Road, property owned by Richard Diehl, because it’s the one that Homeland has been pursuing most heavily.
“We haven’t heard much about the Dixon Road tower,” said Craig Paeprer, Planning Board chair. “This one (Croton Falls) is the one that Homeland Towers has decided to bring forward. It’s one site at a time. They are separate applications. We haven’t read up on [Dixon Road] and we aren’t prepared.”
Planning Board member Raymond Cote said the shot clock determination emanates from the time the site plan application is first filed.
“They put both applications in at the same time,” Cote noted.
Paeprer said that the town’s consultant hasn’t even looked at the Dixon Road plan yet.
“There are different issues for each [tower plan],” he said.
The Planning Board hired the technical consultant to review the applications and the various specialized elements and data provided that aren’t widely understood by laypeople. The consultant should have his report on the Croton Falls tower available this week.
“Homeland has submitted a revised package and the material has been passed along to the radio frequency consulting engineer,” Paeprer said. “We have not yet heard back from him, but he will provide comment to [the Planning Board]. He’s been out of the country for a while but will be available to come to the next meeting, so we don’t have his comments just yet.
“I don’t want this meeting to be anticlimactic, but we are putting a lot of weight on our technical consultant, who is an expert in this,” Paeprer added. “We are really waiting to hear his comments and have him come back to us. That’s why we really don’t have a lot of questions here tonight.”
Officials noted that Homeland still needs some variances for the Croton Falls Road tower before it can proceed. Mike Carnazza, the town’s building inspector, said the Croton Falls plan calls for a 160-foot tower, while the Planning Board, by code, can only allow a tower up to 75 feet. A variance would be needed for the extra 85 feet. Additionally, town code calls for a 24-foot wide aisle into the site, but plans call for one that is just 12 feet wide, thus requiring another variance. A variance would also be needed for the 8-foot fence planned to enclose the tower’s equipment compound.
Patrick Cleary, the town’s planning consultant, said the town engineering department visited the site and verified wetlands there, which means a wetlands permit will also be required.
Both Homeland Towers and residents from the neighborhoods where the towers are planned are anxious for the Planning Board to hold public hearings on the plans, but Paeprer said that will happen in due time.
“I know a lot of people are dying to ask questions,” he said. “We keep going through iterations. As Pat [Cleary] said, we had a technical consultant come in. We wouldn’t want to debate this with the public at 190 feet [and then] 160 feet. Let us keep working with our technical consultants and narrow it down. We want to give the public plenty of time to speak. But we don’t want to derail meetings along the way and not get anywhere. We don’t want to spend hours on a 190-foot tower when it’s going to be 160 feet. We by no means want to cut the public short.”
The cell towers have been controversial because they are planned for residential neighborhoods, which is not where the town would prefer to have them. A citizen’s watchdog group has hired an attorney to fight the plans, saying they lower neighboring property values and are a blight on the rural landscape.