Following completion of a contentious series of public hearings before the Planning Board on the application by Wireless Edge to build a cellular transmission tower on the Gardiner Highway Garage property at 630 South Mountain Road, the Gardiner Town Board decided at its March 1 meeting to accept the applicant’s offer to schedule an additional balloon test for the site. The first test, held in November 2021, lasted only six-and-a-half hours due to bad weather conditions, instead of the eight hours specified under Town zoning regulations.
The supplemental test will take place on Saturday, March 26 from 8 a.m. until noon, weather permitting. If it needs to be postponed, alternate dates will be each successive Saturday and Sunday until it is completed.
In addition, new viewpoints for photographic analysis of the site’s potential visual impact can be added to the list of those used for the first test. A number of near neighbors to the proposed site complained during the public hearing period that the views from their homes had not been taken into account. Town supervisor Marybeth Majestic invited them to send her their recommendations for additional photographic viewpoints.
Acknowledging the “great amount of public outcry,” she also specifically requested that views from the top of the Shawangunk Ridge be considered, even offering to go up to a trail overlook in Minnewaska State Park and take photos herself. Wireless Edge had nixed those viewpoints as “too dangerous” for the photographer after concluding that visual impact from that angle was likely to be negligible, considering that the base of the tower would be on the lower part of the Highway Department parcel, 59 feet below the level of South Mountain Road.
In addition, the Town Board voted to authorize the supervisor to approve a “tolling agreement” with Wireless Edge that would push back the expiration date on the “shock clock” that normally limits the amount of time that a municipality can legally take to debate approval of a cell tower application to 150 days. The new expiration date would be June 17, Majestic said, and Wireless Edge attorney Robert Gaudioso said that the company would agree to the extension in order to conduct the additional test.
At its February 22 meeting, the Planning Board issued a tentative negative declaration on the Environmental Assessment form for the project, conditional upon receipt of a written rationale from its attorney, Victoria Polidoro of Rodenhausen, Chale & Polidoro, LLP, affirming the need for a second cell tower in the Town of Gardiner. During the public hearing process, a number of opponents of the project, including an attorney whom neighbors had retained, had argued that the data offered by Verizon and AT&T about how a second tower would improve cellular reception were either inadequate or biased. The Planning Board tasked Polidoro to review the two companies’ reports and determine whether a “peer review” from an independent radio frequency expert would be necessary.
At the March 1 Town Board meeting, Polidoro recommended that engineers from Verizon and AT&T be invited to a subsequent meeting to explain the coverage maps that they had submitted to the Town in October. Majestic called this a “prudent course” and said that she would try to schedule the presentations for the March 8 meeting.
An additional public hearing has yet to be scheduled for the Town Board’s component of the approval process.