Saratoga County

SBA tries again for cellphone tower

A wireless telephone company is taking another stab at getting a cellphone tower approved in the cit

A wireless telephone company is taking another stab at getting a cellphone tower approved in the city.

A year after height concerns were raised about its first request, SBA Network Services of Florida has moved the site of the proposed tower farther from the road and to a lower elevation.

The proposed 125-foot tower also would be camouflaged inside a stealth pine tree on Route 50 south of downtown toward the town of Milton.

SBA is teaming up with Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile to seek the approval from all three city advisory boards, which plan to hold a joint meeting to hear about the project.

The meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday will be held in the conference room of the Visitor Center, 297 Broadway.

City Planner Jackie Hakes said she expects to see a quorum from all three boards at the special meeting — the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Design Review Commission and the Planning Board.

The meeting is for information only; no decisions will be made.

“That way, when they come before each individual board, they can move right into the nitty-gritty of the application,” Hakes said. “We’re kind of testing out something new here with the joint workshop process.”

City officials had discussed holding such meetings to save time and money for the applicant and for the city, and this is the first big project to come before them since those discussions, said Nancy Goldberg, chairwoman for the zoning board.

“If this is successful, we certainly hope to do them with other projects,” Goldberg said.

The zoning board saw a proposal for the cell tower in late 2006, and made suggestions related to the safety and aesthetics of the tower, which was proposed to stick up far above a copse of trees near Route 50 and close to a neighbor’s property.

In response, SBA now proposes the tower for a different location on the same property, putting it at a 25-foot lower elevation farther from the road so it would be less visible.

Sight studies done by the applicant state that the tree-disguised tower would only be visible from 2.6 percent of the land in a 2.5 mile radius, with the rest blocked either by vegetation or topography. Other sites along Route 50 that were considered and rejected for various reasons were All-Star Chevrolet’s property, the Saratoga Schenectady Schoharie Association of Realtors, the Canadian-Pacific Tower, the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Saratoga Tree Nursery and Saratoga Spa State Park.

SBA’s application states that wireless customers experience frequent disruption of calls along Route 50 because of coverage gaps.

The tower could accommodate up to five wireless companies — Verizon, T-Mobile and three others, the application states. The proposal is for a piece of land owned by Walter Klikocki on the east side of Route 50 across from Hutchins Road.

SBA would lease a 100-by-100-foot piece of land, where the tower and other small buildings would be located, about 250 feet from the road. The area also would be surrounded by a fence.

A year ago, Goldberg said she would like to see cell towers no taller than 10 feet above the tree tops, which is the standard in the Adirondacks.

She expects three more cell tower proposals to come back before the city boards because the zoning board sent back comments about them about a year ago around the same time they reviewed the SBA proposal.

Two are proposed for Weibel Avenue and one for Route 29 on the west side of the city.

Goldberg would like to revise the city’s zoning code to make it more specific regarding the rules for cell towers.

Towers currently are required to be 75 feet from the property line, but most are taller than that. “Towers have been known to fall,” she said. “It’s not fair if it falls on the neighbor’s property.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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