North Salem is considering a plan for an 80-foot cell tower behind 66 June Road--the site of the North Salem Courthouse, police station and Town meeting hall (formerly the town's highway garage).

In April 2015, Danbury-based Homeland Towers approached the town with a proposal to lease between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet behind the 66 June Road property and build a cell phone tower on the hill at the rear of the building.The Town Board is expected to discuss the measure in the upcoming weeks.

Homeland is looking to lease the site in order to construct a so-called monopine—a camouflaged cellular tower that contains antennae within—that would allow cellular service providers to connect and use the added height to improve coverage for customers, in particular 241 homes in town as well as drivers who pass by the area. It will improve coverage on Deveau, June, Mills, Keeler and other areas. (see full list below)

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Under terms of the proposed lease, the town would receive approximately $2,000 per month with 3 percent annual increases. Homeland Towers would foot the bill for all project costs, including municipal approval and construction costs. Once construction is completed, the company will take full responsibility for managing the site and coordinating its use by telecommunications providers. Homeland recently completed the building of a 120-foot stealth facility at a privately owned site on Bloomer Road. Cellular service providers AT&T and Verizon are expected to connect to that location by the end of the year. Ray Vergati, site development manager for Homeland Towers LLC, said the proposed site behind 66 June Road would allow providers such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile to connect and provide improved cellular service along the Route 116 corridor. In addition, he said it would improve communications for first responders in the area, who use Verizon as a carrier.

“These towers are becoming critical infrastructure and lifesavers,” Vergati said. He cited the recent installation of a tower at 320 Old Stagecoach Road in Ridgefield, Conn., that is expected to improve coverage for first responders along the Route 35 corridor. Vergati says most 911 emergency calls are made via cell phone and that good cell service is becoming a public-safety necessity.

North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas said Homeland has already conducted a balloon inspection of the site from overhead to see how an 80-foot monopine tower would look like at 66 June Road when the surrounding trees do not have leaves on them.

He said the possibility of a 120-foot tower was considered at one point, but officials realized it would not make a significant difference with regard to cellular service. “We definitely have a big [service] problem along 116 and Hilltop Drive,” Lucas said. “At 66 June Road, we currently have a small tower inside the building so your cell phone actually works while people are in there.”

Lucas said the poor cell service was a serious issue during hurricanes Irene and Sandy and Tropical Storm Lee, where first responders, as well as residents, experienced communications issues that were concerning to him. “Cops use Verizon in their cars,” Lucas said. “For us, it’s really less about the revenue [from possibly leasing 6 June Road. to Homeland]; it’s really about the coverage.”

He said officials considered Mountain Lakes as a possible site for the cell tower, but noted it is against state law to put towers on state-owned recreational property. While the North Salem Town Board has yet to formally discuss the proposed lease of a portion of 66 June Road for the cell tower, reaction has been mixed among members of the community on Facebook. One reader wrote, “Verizon LTE coverage for Peach Lake would be great! I had to buy a booster to use my cell, the signal was so bad.” Others said it was “long overdue” and a necessity due to “long roads that with bad weather means getting stranded is a real possibility.” Still others said the tower would be “an eyesore” or “disruptive to the view.”

Lucas says he has received calls from constituents complaining about the possible health dangers of being so close to a cell tower. He said many residents were surprised to learn that a cell tower has been existence behind the Ruth M. Keeler Memorial Library for the past 12 to 15 years, and that one exists behind the post office in town.

The leasing proposal is expected to be formally considered by the Town Board in the upcoming weeks. If approved, it must then go before the Planning Board for review and its approval of the overall site plan. Streets that are expected to see improvement in cell service are: Baxter Road, Cat Ridge Road, Delancey Road, Deveau Road, Grant Road/RT 121, Great Oak Lane, Hawley Road, Hilltop Drive, Howe Lane, June Road, Keeler Lane, Long Pond, Lost Pond Lane, Make Peace Hill, Mead Street, Mills Road, Post Road, Quaker Road, Rampart Pass, Red Coat Lane, Route 116, Silo Ridge Road and Turkey Hill Road.