Among the issues recently arousing the most controversy among Gardiner residents, one that the Town Board expected to put to bed at its July 12 meeting – final approval of the agreement for Wireless Edge to build a cell tower on South Mountain Road – got its resolution postponed again. Another, the application by Lazy River Resorts, LLC for the creation of a Campground Floating District and Special Use Permit for the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Campground and adjoining property, at least proceeded to a point where the public hearing phase could be closed after two months of mostly angry input, although much still needs to be resolved before the requests can come to a vote.
That’s not to say that nothing was decided by the Town Board that evening:
- The Gardiner Library’s 414 Budget Resolution seeking a 7.9 percent increase for the coming year – an additional allocation of $19,255 – was unanimously approved (with Franco Carucci absent from the meeting).
- So was a PILOT agreement with Lumens Holdings, the company that previously got the go-ahead to build a commercial solar array on a parcel on Libertyville Road near the Gardiner/New Paltz border, once the wording is approved by the Town’s attorneys. The value of the payment in lieu of taxes will be $7,000 per megawatt for the facility, which will have a two-megawatt generating capacity.
- The Town Board also agreed to serve as the lead agency on the State Environmental Quality Review of the Open Space Institute’s project to rehabilitate the Gardiner segment of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, voting to authorize the Environmental Assessment Form presented by OSI.
But the final lease amendment agreement for construction of the cell tower to go forward, which appeared to have been resolved except for the legal language at the Town Board’s June 14 meeting, hit a snag when Wireless Edge attorney Robert Gaudioso of Snyder & Snyder, LLP, described the company’s understanding of the maximum height of the tower as 120 feet, rather than the 110 understood by Gardiner officials and their attorney, Victoria Polidoro of Rodenhausen, Chale & Polidoro, LLP. Polidoro described the agreement she had prepared as capping the tower’s structure at 110 feet, allowing the Town the option to add municipal whip antennae at the top for emergency service communications, not to exceed 120 feet.
The final version of the agreement, as understood by the Board and Polidoro, was supposed to be a tradeoff allowing Wireless Edge a one-percent reduction in its annual fee escalation clause in exchange for the 110-foot maximum. But Board members expressed confusion when Gaudioso presented 120 feet as the starting point, arguing that Wireless Edge’s owner, John Arthur, was “willing to forgo the lease right to ask for another 20 feet” to which he is entitled under Federal Communications Commission law. The company’s motivation appeared to be reserving the ability to add a third carrier to the tower, in addition to AT&T and Verizon, but this did not jibe with the Board’s sense of the agreement they had conditionally approved.
“This seems like bait-and-switch,” said Polidoro. “You’re saying that an application for 110 feet can really be 110 plus ten percent. We’re not agreeing that’s what the lease is for.”
Councilwoman Laura Walls agreed. “I feel a little blindsided. We’re not going to be bullied into something,” she said. “Let’s ask the attorneys to talk more. Clearly this is not going anywhere tonight.” The consensus of the Town Board was to reschedule the vote, pending further clarification of the terms of the agreement.
Another set of public hearings on the evening’s agenda, on three proposed local laws that would establish a Community Preservation Plan, Community Preservation Fund and Real Estate Transfer Tax, was held open at least until a special meeting on the subject could be convened this Wednesday, July 20. Some Board members expressed consternation when Neil Curri, a consultant involved in the drafting of the Plan, noted that revisions had been necessary to address “minor” parcel score errors identified in its original version released at the end of May. Curri explained that a “slight discrepancy between boundaries” rendered on overlapping maps of the Town’s SPI zones and adjacent parcels, as well as misidentification of soil types in some wetland parcels, had led to the errors, all of which he said he had subsequently corrected. The final version of the Plan is now available for public inspection on the Town of Gardiner website at www.townofgardiner.org/s/Gardiner-CPP-Version-3-2022-06-30-Update-MR.pdf.