NISKAYUNA -- The Town Board on Tuesday unanimously voted to allow construction of a controversial telecommunications tower on WTRY Road.
Florida-based Tarpon Towers will be permitted to lease wooded, town-owned land near Niskayuna's Water and Sewer and Highway Departments and build a 120-foot tall monopole. The tower is expected to improve cellphone service along Route 7.
The town Planning Board and Zoning Commission approved the project n June, sending its recommendation to the Town Board.
The proposal had been under commission review for more than a year and had been opposed by people who live on or near WTRY Road. Residents listed health concerns, declining property values and an altered neighborhood as their reasons against the tower.
Nobody spoke against the tower proposal during the "privilege of the floor" portion of the meeting.
Board Member John Della Ratta, who as chairman of the town's Economic Development, Historic Preservation and Environmental Conservation Committee discussed the proposal with members of the public at the committee's Aug. 3 session, believes better cell coverage was the key issue.
"We believe it's in the public interest to close the gap in coverage," Della Ratta said.
Della Ratta also said the town hopes to improve the WTRY neighborhood.
"We're going to do the best we can to create a buffer to have as minimal impact as we can," he said. "I know a good portion of the money that we get [from the lease agreement], we're going to put directly into landscaping there. I don't know if we'll make them completely happy but I think we'll make them happier."
Supervisor Yasmine Syed said she has heard from about 30 people who have asked when the town will get the cellphone tower.
"It's really for the overall safety of everyone in the community to not have that dead zone there," Syed said, adding that the town will also have the ability to put emergency transmission equipment on the tower.
Construction is expected to start in early 2019.
In other business, the board unanimously voted to raise sewer tax rates for the town's District 6 -- the larger of the two sewer districts in town. Residents will now pay $2.50 per 1,000 gallons of water treated -- an increase of 50 cents per gallon from the old rate.
The commercial rate rose to $3 per 1,000 gallons of treated sewage.
"This will pay for the first two phases of the wastewater treatment plant, the debt service is coming due on $13.9 million in bonding that is critical to the future of the community," said board member Denise Murphy McGraw.
McGraw said that while the residential rate has increased by 25 percent, most people will not pay that much.
"It will be closer to 9 to 13 [percent]," McGraw said. "Most people will pay around 10."
In other matters at the meeting:
* Matthew Yetto was appointed to the position of superintendent of the town's Water and Sewer and Engineering Department. Yetto, who had served as deputy superintendent, succeeds Richard Pollock, who has retired.
"This is the next logical step for your career, this is the next logical step for our community," said Board Member Denise Murphy McGraw, who chairs the town's public works committee.
* The board set three public hearings for its next meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 25.
In one hearing, people will be able to speak about a construction facility proposed for 397-399 Anthony St. Jackson Demolition hopes to move into existing buildings on the land, buildings once used by Cardona & Sons business. Construction materials and equipment also will be stored on site, if a special use permit is granted by the town.
The other two hearings will be about noise. In one hearing, discussion will be invited on an amendment the town is considering to restrict construction activity noise on Saturdays and Sundays. The other hearing will be used for input regarding a possible amendment to the local law regarding unprovoked and continuous barking by dogs.
The hearings will begin at the beginning of the meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m.
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]