The Woodstock Planning Board insists it needs to see proof of permission from the town before it will consider a cell phone company’s request for a special use permit to modify and replace equipment on the California Quarry Road tower.
Centerline Communications, acting as agent for New Cingular Wireless, aka AT&T, is seeking to remove six antennae and replace four and upgrade some transmitting and receiving equipment. Centerline rescinded an earlier application that was titled a 5G retrofit, but has resubmitted the same plans without any reference to 5G technology.
“We had asked you to come back to us with a written authority from the Town Board authorizing you to proceed with this application, since you’re seeking a special permit and to modify a site plan on the town’s property,” Planning Board Vice Chair Stuart Lipkind said. “And after we made that request, you withdrew your application. So we’ve never received any further statement of authority from the Town Board that we asked for. And I wanted to indicate to you as far as I’m concerned, we’re still looking for that authority to be presented to us as a Planning Board.”
Lipkind explained it has long been the Planning Board’s practice to require owners of the land for which a permit is sought to either come before the board or provide written authority for the request. “Otherwise, we’re in a position of being asked to issue permits and modify site plans for property that the applicant doesn’t own, and that’s not a position that we have ever wanted to be in,” he said.
Centerline Site Acquisition Specialist Brenda Blask-Lewis said the application was made through Crown Castle, which manages the tower, then gets approval from the town.
“Well, have you asked Crown Castle to do that,” Lipkind asked.
“They would do that because when we submit our application, they know that they have to get the lessor, the town, to approve the modifications that are requesting,” Blask-Lewis responded.
Centerline Project Manager Sarah Stevens said Crown Castle has authority under the lease and management contract with the town to approve the work. “And I’m not sure that it is necessarily pertinent to determining whether this application is an eligible facilities request…which really is what we need to be talking about,” Stevens said.
A wireless provider’s application to modify or replace equipment meets the federal definition of an eligible facilities request if it complies with local zoning regulations and does not significantly change the footprint of the tower. That issue is separate from the Planning Board’s ability to proceed with the special use permit. “My question still stands. Has New Cingular Wireless on behalf of AT&T asked Crown Castle to obtain written authority from the Town Board for this application to go forward regarding the town’s property? Simple question. I just need to know the answer,” Lipkind again asked.
Blask-Lewis said she has a letter of authorization from Crown Castle, but Lipkind was not satisfied. “But Crown Castle, with all due respect, does not own the land and they don’t own the tower,” Lipkind said.
“They do represent the the town, so there’s got to be a contractual relationship between Crown and the Town of Woodstock,” Blask-Lewis said.
“At this point, this Planning Board is still requiring a written authorization from the Town Board as a governing body and the proprietor of the tower. It’s their property, and I don’t know that we’ve ever allowed an application to go forward with this issue,” Lipkind responded. “Crown Castle is not an applicant here, and they’re not present, so it’s not our burden to go seek them out.”
Town Planning Attorney John Lyons noted asking for permission from the landowner, in this case the town, is not out of the ordinary. “This request for this information is not treating this particular applicant different from anyone else,” Lyons said. “And it’s only fair for this board to apply the same standard to everybody that comes before the board.”
5G or not 5G? That is the question
“The last time you were here before us, there was some language on the plans indicating that the proposed upgrade was part of a 5G retrofit or retrofit 5G. That was language that was on your plans, and I noticed on the current plans, that language has been deleted. Can you explain to me why it was deleted?” Lipkind asked.
“It’s the same set of plans. They just changed the title of the plans,” Blask-Lewis said.
“I believe it was just updated to reflect that this is not specifically a 5G-only related project. It’s not focused on 5G. It’s an upgrade of the total facility, and over the course of time, I think that that’s the project as a whole across the state, it was just deemed to be not representative of the projects,” Stevens added.