Weekly Feature

2018-03-08 / Front Page

Residents express concern over cell tower

by AMY ROBB Editor

Several residents spoke at a Lancaster Town Board public hearing on Monday night regarding a telecommunications tower proposed for 255 Peppermint Road.

The tower, to be placed by Up State Tower Co. for Blue Wireless, requires a special use permit to move forward with construction.

Many of the speakers were Peppermint Road residents, while others had cell towers erected near them already and expressed concern at more being installed.

“There was a cell tower on Walden Avenue, right across from the VFW, being put up and installed, and instead of using a crane, they were using a skyjack. And the skyjack tipped over,” said resident Greg Sojka.

“Is your company going to be using the right equipment to do the job so that there are no accidents?” he said. “I wouldn’t want to see that happen on Peppermint.”

Matthew Fischione, code enforcement officer for the town, added that the incident occurred Friday at Lancaster’s Mohawk Place location.

“They were staging the individual sections for when the crane did show up on Monday, that they could pick up all the individual pieces so that it was a one-day installation,” said Fischione.

“As they were lifting one section onto another, moving the pieces of equipment, it rolled up on a hill and the weight shifted and toppled the machinery.”

Fischione didn’t have the name of the subcontractor but made clear that each applicant is required to submit insurance certificates to the town in order for officials to issue a building permit, and that it is the responsibility of the contractor to operate in a safe manner.

“Up State has considerable experience erecting these types of towers. They do use the proper equipment, the proper safeguards for these,” added Andrew Leja, an attorney with Barclay Damon, representing Up State Tower and Blue Wireless.

Peppermint Road residents Karen and Jim Schweitzer, as well as Jeff Cappella, of Argus Drive, also asked the board if it would be addressing potential health concerns, citing a risk of being exposed to electromagnetic radiation and microwave hazards.

According to Leja, health risks have been studied by the federal government in the past and outlined in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

“There was no specific study done for this location, nor for any other locations around here that are cited. The reason for that is the studies that have been done were done by the federal government back in the 1980s and 1990s,” said Leja.

“They made a conclusion that such public utilities like cellphone towers did not emit hazardous levels of radiation and were not deemed unsafe to the public, and as a matter of fact were necessary for public communication and for the general welfare of the public.”

Leja added that, as part of the Telecommunications Act, local municipalities are prohibited from examining health impacts when considering cell tower installation.

“The federal government has already pre-empted the field on that and has already made the determination that radiation emitted from such towers is of such small volume and so localized as to not be declared any type of a hazard to the public,” Leja said.

“The Telecommunications Act has handcuffed local municipalities, for good or bad,” added Kevin Loftus, attorney for the Town of Lancaster, suggesting residents call Rep. Chris Collins to voice concerns regarding cell tower safety.

Collins’ office is located at 2813 Wehrle Drive, Suite 13, in Lancaster. His office can be reached at 634-2324.

For more information on the Telecommunications Act of 1996, visit https://www.fcc.gov/general/telecommunications-act-1996.

In another matter, parking on the north side of Kennedy Court, from Central Avenue to 39 Kennedy, is banned from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, March 12 to June 22.

The resolution for the temporary ban was passed after the public expressed concerns regarding Lancaster High School students parking along the nearby street, potentially blocking plows and first responders.

Roughly 10 spaces will be lost with the ban.

“This was a long time coming. When students are parking on both sides of the street, it limits emergency vehicles, snowplows,” said Councilman Matthew Walter.

The next Lancaster Town Board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, March 19, at 21 Central Ave. in Lancaster. There is always a work session a half hour prior to each meeting.

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