Saratoga County

500-foot buffer called inadequate

Clifton Park residents turned out Monday night to press the Town Board to tighten up rules for co

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Clifton Park residents turned out Monday night to press the Town Board to tighten up rules for companies who want to build cell towers in town..

One resident urged officials not to allow any cell towers in residential areas, even those that would comply with new requirements.

“There are acres of commercial- and industrial-zoned land in town, and these intrusive uses by private businesses do not belong in residential areas at all,” William Engleman of Ballston Lake said. “The health effects are uncertain, and people should not be guinea pigs for this technology. ”

The most controversial issue during the one-hour public hearing, required before the board adopts any changes to its law, was whether a proposed 500-foot buffer between the cell equipment structures and residential property was safe enough.

“I question the federal findings on safety even in cellphone handsets,” said William Barber, who lives on Blue Spruce Lane in the Country Knolls development. “There are no findings that show a 500-foot buffer builds in sufficient safeguards.”

Town Attorney Tom McCarthy said the board’s highest priority is requiring the 500-foot buffer for any new applicants, but that their hands are tied when it comes to barring companies from adding antennae on already existing structures closer than 500 feet to homes.

“The Zoning Board has not been able to uphold a denial to co-locate on a site without the buffer, so the 500-foot buffer for new towers is really our main concern,” Town Supervisor Philip Barrett said. “I’m still told this might not hold up in court, but let’s see. It’s an ongoing concern that if the companies can prove a need for more service, they can put up a tower. We want to limit this as much as possible by fighting them with the cards we’re given.”

Codes used by the town to review applications to locate telecommunications equipment in Clifton Park were written in 1998 and updated in 2000. During a 120-day moratorium due to expire the end of August, all applications were put on hold as the codes were revamped to include stricter rules for keeping residents informed about all new applications,location, aesthetics, safety, traffic and maintenance.

Barber questioned what could be done to block an application already under way by a telecommunications company to locate an antenna on a water tower less than 150 feet from his property in Clifton Knolls.

“It would be difficult to pass a law retroactively,” McCarthy said.

The draft also strongly encourages co-locating equipment on existing structures rather than building freestanding towers.

“The town would also like to see cell companies share space whenever possible, with up to five antennas on each structure,” McCarthy said.

Other stipulations in the proposed new laws require applicants to give detailed plans for water drainage, off-street parking and loading facilities and using natural buffers to make the equipment blend in with the surroundings. The guidelines also ban artificial lighting and using the site as a storage area for accessory equipment or vehicles.

Other residents Monday night encouraged the board to move forward to get better cell service in town.

“The cell phone is our emergency communications device, and we can’t be going out to Route 9 just to get a signal,” Jesse Vics, a retired Clifton Park resident said.The Town Board did not formally adopt the new regulations Monday night, deciding instead to give them further review after several residents complained they could not access the 20-page document on the town Web site.

McCarthy said he would have the link checked, and that paper copies are available now at Town Hall.

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