Saratoga County

Adirondack Parks Agency green lights AT&T tower in Edinburg

This provided image shows the region of the Adirondacks where the tower would be placed. It would be atop the ridge to the left of center.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

This provided image shows the region of the Adirondacks where the tower would be placed. It would be atop the ridge to the left of center.

EDINBURG — The Adirondack Parks Agency approved a proposed 101-foot telecommunications tower aimed at providing a boost to the signal-starved northwestern Saratoga County portion of the Adirondack Park.

The 7-2 vote during APA’s monthly board meeting gave the go-ahead to New Cingular Wireless PCS, doing business as AT&T.

The APA oversees land use in the 6 million acre park and has a policy that cell towers should be “substantially invisible.”

The telecommunications tower will be concealed as a 106-foot, simulated tree.

Edinburg, a tourist community of less than 1,400 residents within the Adirondack Park on the shores of The Great Sacandaga Lake, approved the project on Feb. 24.

This portion of the Adirondacks is mostly reliant on Wi-Fi for cellphone dependability.

Meanwhile, the applicant recently allayed concerns that were expressed previously by Saratoga County regarding potential interference with the county’s emergency radio communications tower network.

County officials said AT&T made a good faith representation that if there is any interference or mixing of signals once the tower goes live, the company would work with the county and the Federal Communications Commission to quickly resolve any issues.

The proposed tower will be approximately 250 feet from the existing APA-authorized tower.

AT&T Mobility Group retained Costich Engineering to prepare a visual analysis and impact assessment on the proposed wireless telecommunications site, on land the company would lease from owner Roger Scott of Middle Grove.

The proposed cell tower would be atop mountainous terrain on Fraker Mountain, overlooking Great Sacandaga Lake. The tower would protrude around 10 feet above the treeline.

The existing Saratoga County tower stands about 20 feet above treeline.

Board members Arthur Lossi and Mark Hall cast the two dissenting votes during the APA meeting.

Lossi said he didn’t believe the artificial tree would meet “the substantial invisibility standard” the board follows, while Hall said he believed the permit should be less restrictive.

Earlier Thursday, the APA’s Regulatory Programs Committee voted 3-1 in favor of the project, advancing it to the full board.

During the committee meeting, Hall and others broached the idea of having the applicant raise the proposed tower’s height, possibly as much as an additional 20 feet, making it feasible for a cell company to “co-locate” on the tower and thereby expand the coverage area.

But APA analyst Virginia Yamrick said there was no request from the agency to depict a taller tower, either in trying to vertically co-locate on the Saratoga County tower, or to request any kind of extended height on the proposed AT&T tower.

Board Chairman John Ernst said the height of the tower was based on what AT&T requested.

“This is what they thought in their professional expertise they needed,” he said.

Although the proposed tower is meant to look like a tree, some board members said they had a harder time seeing the county tower than they did the proposed AT&T tower in renderings.

The Adirondack Council, an organization that works to preserve water, air and wildlands, was among the entities opposed to the proposed tower.

The council wrote a letter indicating the proposed tower wouldn’t comply with the APA’s Tower Policy.

“The Agency should continue to work with the applicant to ensure that the substantially invisible directive of the Towers Policy is satisfied,” the council wrote in a letter to the APA. “We believe it is possible to expand cellular service while still preserving the integrity of the Towers Policy and the scenic beauty of the Adirondack Park. We echo the Empire State Development Corp. and the Upstate Cellular Coverage Task Force’s finding that there is potential for small-cell coverage expansion as part of a comprehensive coverage plan for the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.”

Many others supported the project.

Justin Wilcox, executive director of Upstate United, wrote:

“Expanding telecommunication infrastructure to rural areas is vital to job creation, civic engagement, education, health care, tourism and public safety. We respectfully ask that you consider this application, which will provide reliable wireless service to the residents of the Town of Edinburg.”

Melvin Norris, senior director of government affairs for The Business Council of New York State, said the 9/11 Commission noted communication failures that occurred during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In 2012, Congress set aside a band of spectrum and created the federal First Responder Network Authority, with AT&T selected as the private partner in this 25-year public-private partnership to build, operate, and evolve the nationwide public safety network.

“It is vital that public safety agencies stay ahead of the curve by modernizing their communications and businesses have a network that is reliable,” Norris said.

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.

Categories: News, Saratoga County

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