November 17, 2011

PB meeting, Public Hearing 11/17/11

Bill Squires called for the PB meeting to open at 6:59 pm. All members were present. A motion was made by Tom B to accept the minutes for the 9/22/11 PB meeting. Motion seconded by Todd H. and approved by all.

A motion for adjournment was made by Tom B, seconded by Todd H and approved so we could move forward to the public hearing.

Public hearing was called to order by Bill S. The first order of business concerned the simple subdivision of property owned by Mr. and Mrs. Wilkes on Yale Station Rd and E Lake Rd. The parcel needing subdivision is a lot and house formerly owned by Howard Smith. The party interested in buying the parcel wants to refurbish the residence. A motion to subdivide this property was made by Bill L., seconded by Phil Knapp and accepted by all.

The second item of business concerns the proposed Verizon cell tower to be constructed on the corner of Rt. 336 and Rt. 96 in the town of Varick where a radio tower currently exists. Attorney Robert Burgdorf reviewed the intentions of Verizon for the sake of those who were at the hearing. The basic reasons for placing it here is that it is located next to an existing tower and it is the best location for needed coverage. The tower is located 320’ from the residence of Larry and Edith Colton.

The Colton’s had several objections to the placement of a new tower, the main one being that part of their property falls within 300’ of the tower which violates zoning setback limits. Mr. Colton brought a map of the site and claimed that his house was within the setback. However, it was shown that it was actually outside of the setback, although some of his property is within the perimeter. This is Mr. Colton’s main objection to the tower at this location.

Edtih Colton presented a number of concerns as well. She mentioned the change of landscape and the closeness to the tower might devalue their property if resold. She was also concerned about safety issues since this was one of the main reasons for setbacks. She feared damage to their property if the tower happened to fall. Even though it is never supposed to come down, what would happen if it did?

The Colton’s then suggested another possible site adjacent to the property in the Town of Fayette. Mrs. Colton also thought the requested variance was substantial due to these reasons. However, the issue of variance is not the concern of the PB but the Zoning Board of Appeals. She again mentioned the physical and environmental impact upon the area and the problem of resale for their home. She finally mentioned that the alleged difficulty of other sites is self-created. Are there other sites available, such as the one mentioned above. Mrs. Colton was not aware of the tests that were done at the alternate sites suggested by the PB in September.

Richard Olsen also had two concerns. First, how would liabilities associated with the tower falling or something falling off of it be covered? Is Verizon liable for such an event? Also, he urged the PB to follow the town zoning code.

Mr. Burgdorf then addressed the above concerns. He stated that Verizon does not need an easement in regard to Colton’s property. That is not really the issue for our board. He also cited state law that allows for the necessity of public utilities such as cell towers to overrule individual land rights in these cases. The issue of public safety was again addressed – these towers exceed current standards and will not fall down. He stated in the event of such a calamity the current radio tower would come down before the cell tower. In regard to the loss of property value, Mr. Burgdorf said that property near such towers usually increases at the same rate of other property in the area. He also reminded the board that the purpose of this hearing was for a special permit in regard to the setbacks.

Mr. Burgdorf also addressed the issue of liability, Verizon has insurance and any damage would be covered by the company. He also assured us that they were seeking to follow zoning code law by going through the current channel of applying for a special permit.

The Colton’s restated a couple of their concerns but the main one involves the 300’ setback that violates current code. Mr. Colton believes that a special permit should not be granted because of this.

It was again stated that the purpose of our meeting was the issue of a special use permit, not a variance on the zoning code. Tom B explained that the purpose of an easement was to see to it that neighboring landowners could be compensated in situations like this. Since the PB and ZBA might allow a special case, then the neighboring landowners would have some compensation for their loss of protection. In this situation an easement is not really needed, but could be agreed to for the above reason.

A motion was made to close the public hearing by Todd and seconded by Linda M. The motion passed.

We then moved to reopen the regular meeting of the PB. Tom B moved to approve a special permit for Verizon cell tower, but Mr. Burgdorf suggested we make a motion concerning SEQR requirements. Tom rescinded the previous motion and made the following – “I move that the project will not result in any large and important impact(s) and, therefore, is one which will not have a significant impact on the environment, therefore a negative declaration will be prepared.“ The motion was seconded by Barry S, all approved.

A motion was then made by Tom and seconded by Linda to approve a special use permit for Verizon to construct a cell tower at the original site proposed to be forwarded to the ZBA. In discussion, it was cited that a tower of this nature would be a huge benefit to the area. It was agreed that there was no real danger to the Colton house and property in the event that the tower fell, although we understand their concerns. The board realizes the potential negative impact to one family, but the public good seems to outweigh this. The question of forwarding info to the PBA was raised. Bill S will send a copy of all the minutes pertaining to this issue to the chair of the ZBA. All were in favor of the motion.

Bill S said he would send a cover letter to the ZBA regarding our motion and would email a copy to each PB member for feedback. He will also talk to the chair of the ZBA about the above issues.

Phil K motioned to approve the minutes of the 10/13/11 meeting, Bill L seconded and all approved.

A motion to adjourn was made by Tom B at 8:35, seconded by Bill S. The next PB meeting is 1/19/12.