Saratoga County

Rules on cell towers to be aired

Clifton Park officials are being loud and clear communicating with companies looking to locate new c
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Clifton Park officials are being loud and clear communicating with companies looking to locate new cell towers in the town.

Current laws governing all aspects of adding telecommunications equipment in Clifton Park were written in 1998 and updated in 2000. A draft of new regulations for cell tower applicants was released Monday.

During a 120-day moratorium, due to expire the end of August, all applications have been on hold as planning board members and Town Attorney Tom McCarthy overhauled the codes, developing a 20-page volume spelling out rules for location, aesthetics, safety and minimizing effects on residents.

McCarthy said the review was sparked by growing concern from town residents.

“Clifton Park is a cherry in the middle of this industry because of our demographics, and it’s important our decisions aren’t knee-jerk reactions,” McCarthy said. “This is the time to get rules in place; there’s no controversy out there, we’re just getting ready — ahead of the curve.”

One of the stipulations with the most muscle is requiring a 500-foot buffer between the cell equipment structures and residential property, an issue that has been previously taken to court by cell companies.

“Our residents need to know that’s in the code; we need that buffer, and we’ll fight on that if we need to on its legality,” McCarthy said. “I think we can win on this and the companies will respect it.”

If approved, the new guidelines would call for keeping nearby landowners in the loop for any proposals by mailing each resident notices about public hearings. Applicants must also provide the location and layout of off-street parking and loading facilities, and have a detailed water drainage plan. The guidelines also prevent artificial lighting and using the site as a storage area for accessory equipment or vehicles.

Rather than building freestanding antennae structures, companies will be encouraged to locate on existing water towers, silos or tall buildings. The town would also like to see cell companies share space whenever possible.

“Co-location is a key component in causing minimal disruption to the character of the land and property near the requested site,” McCarthy said.

Health measures are covered extensively in the proposed guidelines, requiring companies to certify radiation levels are within Federal Communications Commission laws.

William Barber, who lives on Blue Spruce Lane in the Country Knolls development, is a retired electrical engineer for the General Electric Global Research Center, and has been keeping a close eye on the town’s review efforts. Barber has concerns for the general public and for his family, since an application ihas been submitted from T-Mobile to locate two antennae on a water tower near his backyard.

Barber said even with stringent rules in place, regulating cell tower equipment may not completely reduce risks of dangerous levels of radiation.

“It’s not so much a cell tower problem; it’s more that we need to know how much radiation is out there overall,” Barber said. “We’re beating up on cell towers but what we need is more information on radiation from cell phone use, radio and television frequencies, civil band radios, police and fire communications. It all adds up.”

Barber said he plans to voice his opinions to the town board.

The town building and planning departments would be responsible for record-keeping, monitoring and inspecting equipment sites, under the proposed regulation changes.

The Town Board is expected to introduce the amendments to the telecommunications guidelines this week. A public hearing will be held July 21 before the document can be adopted.

Categories: Schenectady County

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