MC asks to have cell tower rules modified

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County legislators want the Adirondack Park Agency to change its policy for siting of telecommunications towers, especially as it relates to heights.

The Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee last week passed a proposed resolution, which the full board will review July 13.

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said proposed changes would be more “flexible” and the “same thing that has been suggested by a number of counties.” He said cell tower coverage north of the Adirondack Blue Line has always been a problem.

“I think this would be a slight lessening [of regulation],” Stead said.

Stead said many communities are now calling for the APA’s cell tower policy to be amended to allow and encourage improved cell phone and emergency radio communications. The Adirondack Local Government Review Board and Adirondack region municipalities are suggesting a more relaxed standard of “not readily discernible” for tower siting, rather than the current APA standard of “substantially invisible.”

Fulton County officials note their proposed resolution requests the APA review and modify its tower policy adding the following incentives and exceptions for specific sites:

∫ A height “incentive” of 10 to 15 feet above tree height.

∫ Offer general permits for cell carrier antennas on existing tall structures such as water towers, hotels, ski lift towers, church steeples and on government buildings – provided they meet certain specified conditions.

∫ Allow cell carrier antennas of some height, such as 20 feet above existing structures within the APA hamlet classification.

∫ Offer a height “bonus” of 10 to 20 feet above a tree canopy for new towers serving currently unserved areas.

∫ Add a requirement to its policy that staff and commissioners ask cell tower applicants for information, including a map, showing how a higher tower would expand coverage and benefit residents and travelers, which would enable APA commissioners to weigh the visibility cost against the public benefit.

Fulton County officials noted that currently, cell phone service is unavailable in many areas of the Adirondacks.

“Cell phones are an important tool used by emergency response personnel, including forest rangers, police, fire and ambulance services to receive reports of incidents, provide lifesaving instructions, and to locate lost or injured people through triangulation of the location feature of their phones,” the resolution says. “Life-threatening incidents have occurred in the Adirondacks during which the lack of cell phone and emergency radio service have led to delays to response, and to worsen outcomes for the people involved, including deaths.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older