The bulk of the June 14 meeting of the Gardiner Town Board consisted of public comments on the wildly unpopular expansion of the Lazy River Campground via the creation of a Floating District – a public hearing that will continue at the July 12 meeting. Nothing was resolved, but the Board is considering the possibility of holding a special meeting sooner than that, devoted entirely to deconstructing the 12 waivers requested by Lazy River, LLC, and deciding which ones are acceptable to the Town.
Though shorter, a more momentous portion of the meeting was the Board’s decision to proceed with approval of the application by Wireless Edge to build a cell tower at the Gardiner Highway Department Garage property on South Mountain Road. With Carol Richman the lone dissenter, the Board voted 4-1 to authorize the Town’s attorney, Victoria Polidoro of Rodenhausen, Chale & Polidoro, LLP, to draft an agreement for the project.
Richman questioned whether this, the Town of Gardiner’s second cell tower, would solve the coverage problems experienced in some neighborhoods, such as on Hasbrouck Road. She predicted that a third tower would become inevitable at some point.
But increasing cell service coverage was a persuasive factor in the minds of several Board members. “Access is an equity and safety issue,” said councilwoman Laura Walls. While acknowledging that negative visual impact would be “more than minimal” for parts of the township close to the tower, she said, “Otherwise, this is an almost-perfect site.”
Councilman Warren Wiegand also indicated that he had been swayed primarily by the “service issue,” but added, “My heart goes out to the people living nearby. I wouldn’t want to be able to see a cell tower from my backyard.”
It was councilman Franco Carucci who ultimately spoke the sensitive acronym that Board members had been avoiding up until now, in discussions of the cell tower’s impacts on neighbors: “This is one of those NIMBY situations,” he admitted.
But Carucci was less than enthusiastic about deciding in the tower’s favor, noting that the site had been predetermined by the Town’s lease agreement with Wireless Edge, dating back to the controversy over a proposed and rejected site on Town Hall property a decade ago. “We’re stuck because of decisions by previous administrations. I’m very much against it, but feel that we’re left with no choice.”
Supervisor Marybeth Majestic concurred, saying, “Like Lazy River, we inherited this.” She recommended that the terms of the agreement being drawn up by Polidoro include several conditions, including requiring a “progress report” by Wireless Edge on coverage improvements “six months down the road,” as well as the installation of “ice-breaking devices” to protect Highway Department employees working nearby from icicles potentially being blown off the structure during winter storms.
Polidoro also noted that Wireless Edge had proposed a “tradeoff” capping the tower’s height at 110 feet, instead of a possible 120 to accommodate additional broadcast equipment from cellular companies besides Verizon and AT&T. In exchange, Wireless Edge would receive a slightly more favorable rate of a two percent rather than three percent increase in its rent escalator clause.
Authorization of the final cell tower agreement is anticipated in July.