MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Two controversial cell towers once planned for residential neighborhoods in Mahopac have been relocated in an out-of-court settlement with Verizon Wireless and Homeland Towers.
The Town Board voted 3-0 to accept the settlement at its May 13 meeting. Councilman Mike Barile, citing a potential conflict, abstained and Councilwoman Suzi McDonough was absent.
Barile said he abstained because he and his daughter own property and an easement near the proposed Croton Falls Road site.
“I didn’t want to do anything to mess up the settlement,” the councilman said. “But we’re thrilled with the decision.”
Last fall, the Planning Board rejected applications made by Homeland Towers to build cell towers in neighborhoods off Croton Falls Road and Dixon Road in Mahopac. Residents in those neighborhoods rallied to fight the proposals, saying the towers would hurt property values and questioned whether they were even needed in those areas in the first place. The groups hired an attorney to make their case.
When the Planning Board rejected the applications last fall, Homeland and Verizon sued and took the case to the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.
Mahopac News has requested a copy of the agreement under the Freedom of Information Act. The accord calls for the tower, originally planned for 254 Croton Falls Road, to be moved, sources said, to Maple Hill Estates off Union Valley Road. Residents of that townhouse community voted to have the tower placed there.
Barile told Mahopac News that the tower planned for 36 Dixon Road will be moved to the other side of the property, owned by John and Angela Spaccarelli, closer to the border of McDonough Park.
“I always thought it should have been in the park itself, but the Spaccarellis were going to sue us [if the tower was forced off their property], so I guess this is a compromise,” Barile said. “As part of the agreement, [Homeland] also made a very significant [monetary] contribution to help with the ball field at the park.”
John Montanaro, a spokesperson for the Dixon Road group, said he didn’t want to comment on the decision until the residents could review the documents with their attorney. He said the group also filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the documents, which will take about five days.
“The settlement was made without any knowledge or consultation with the Dixon Road group,” Montanaro said.
Meanwhile, Bob Buckley, a community activist who lives near the Croton Falls Road site that had been proposed for the tower and who helped organize the fight against it, said his group was extremely pleased with the decision.
“This is a big victory for community activism, and it shows that if you stand up as a community for something that you believe in, maybe your voice and opinion will be heard,” he said. “The Planning Board and Zoning Board were extremely patient with all who came before them on this matter and heard both sides before rendering a decision to deny the applications. Counsel on both boards were extremely professional.”
Buckley thanked the Town Board for negotiating the settlement and lauded the residents’ attorney for his role in the outcome.
“The residents from both communities were represented by Andrew Campanelli, who did a fantastic job setting the record straight regarding the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and clarified many legal issues for the Planning Board and Zoning Board,” Buckley said. “But the biggest ‘thank you’ goes to all the residents who were persistent and attended meeting after meeting to make sure our voices were heard.”
Buckley said that in the end it was a win-win for all sides.
“At the end of the day it was a win for all, I guess,” he said. “Homeland Towers got their cell towers and the residents around Croton Falls Road got the cell tower denied.”
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