The Woodstock Town Board, on November 20, unanimously adopted a Comprehensive Plan for the first time in more then 50 years, sparking more pleas to fight against 5G technology.
At its regular business meeting, the board reopened a public hearing on the planning document, leading many to speak out once again about what they perceive as ill health effects of the latest version of wireless voice and high-speed data.
The Comprehensive Plan calls for the town to “Immediately work with cell service providers to develop and implement a plan to extend cell service access to the western areas of town using existing cell towers,” causing some to fear the effects of radiation from 5G equipment.
Abby Mitchell spoke of an international appeal to stop 5G, noting that studies show it interferes with the reproduction systems “of all living things.”
While Supervisor Bill McKenna reiterated increasing cell service does not necessarily require 5G, Steve Romine, who has been vocal on the subject, is worried about use of existing technology. “In order to reach more areas, it’s going to irradiate more,” he said.
Residents of the western part of town have raised safety concerns over the lack of cell coverage and have said it can be difficult to convince Verizon to run a landline down a long driveway. Many have phone service bundled into their cable package, but it uses the cable modem to operate and does not work during a power outage.
Romine said Spectrum, the cable contractor, can supply a battery for the modem for about $40 that will power the phone service, but not internet, for about 8 hours.
Felicia Kacsik told the board there are many peer reviewed studies that show 5G is harmful and “no peer reviewed studies that show it’s safe.”
Planning Board member Paul Shultis Jr. suggested imposing a moratorium on new cell towers or equipment until 5G is further studied. The town needs to be prepared for applications from cell companies. “It’s coming whether we’re ready or not,” Shultis said, adding the section of the zoning law governing communications needs an update. It “was written in 1989. It’s totally outdated,” he said.
Woodstock’s last Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1962. A more recent one was commissioned but never adopted, though McKenna figures the town implemented about 85 percent of its recommendations through the years.
The Comprehensive Plan serves as a guiding document for long-range planning over the next 15-20 years.
The newest plan, drafted with the assistance of Behan Planning and Design of Saratoga Springs, is the culmination of months of public meetings and workshops conducted by the volunteer Comprehensive Plan Committee led by Kirk Ritchey.
Calls for trash law
Calvin Grimm said he reviewed the entire Comprehensive Plan and hadn’t seen anything addressing the neglect of household garbage.
With the increase in weekenders and short-term renters, “we have suffered from a lack of awareness of the centuries-old aesthetic of keeping one’s roadside appearance pleasantly rural for all neighbors and visitors,” he said. Grimm decried the increase in curbside trash containers as an “unsightly proliferation of large, green monuments at nearly every driveway.” In leave-no-trace camping, “there is no such thing as a bad bear. There are only bad campers,” he said.
Grimm called for a new law requiring removal of trash cans from the curb the same day as trash pickup and stored out of sight. The containers must be bear-proof or secured with a chain or rubber strap, he suggested. He added any trash spread around by animals that is not be picked up could result in a $100 fine plus a $25 fee for the town to clean it.
Councilmen Lorin Rose and Richard Heppner agreed it should be a town law. Rose said the town could negotiate with a single trash hauler like other municipalities do so it is easier to regulate.
Town secures funding for Mink Hollow bridge
Thanks to hard work from Highway Department employee Heather Eighmey and Highway Superintendent Mike Reynolds, the town has secured more than $745,000 for the Mink Hollow bridge, which is in dire need of replacement. Eighmey “really hit it big” with a $632,659 grant from the state Department of Transportation Bridge New York program for 95 percent of construction costs, McKenna said.
A $112,742.40 grant from the Ashokan Watershed Stream Management Program will cover engineering, surveying and 5 percent of construction costs.
In other grant news, McKenna said he has worked with Assemblyman Kevin Cahill to secure $250,000 from the State and Municipal Facilities Program for reed beds to improve the wastewater treatment plant.
“It’s been a good week,” McKenna said of the nearly $1 million in funding for both projects.