Verizon to install micro-cell antenna on Main Street

SARANAC LAKE — Verizon Wireless hopes to improve its coverage in a downtown “hot spot” by installing a small antenna on top of a Main Street building.

The village Development Board on Tuesday approved the company’s plan to locate a 2-foot-tall micro-cell antenna on the roof of the Tousley Building, also known as the Madden’s Transfer and Storage building, at 47 Main St.

This kind of micro-cell antenna is a newer technology that Verizon Wireless has added to its network across the state, including in the Adirondacks, explained Rob Brenner of Nixon Peabody LLP, a lawyer for Verizon Wireless.

“We’ve done a number in Lake Placid,” he said. “We’ve done a few in Schroon Lake. We’re trying to hit the population centers.”

Brenner said the antenna is primarily designed to offload capacity on the company’s network.

“It’s a situation where user demand on the network right here in the village is overloading the larger sites that are serving this area, causing those facilities to no longer operate the way they were intended to operate,” Brenner said. “The alternative is to build a large macro facility in the center of the village, which obviously would be visually intrusive and wouldn’t be preferable. Here, all we’re proposing is a single antenna panel on the rooftop of this building.”

Brenner said the antenna is designed to prevent dropped calls, failed calls or lagging data connections in a 1,500- to 2,000-foot radius.

“They’re really intended to be hot spot coverage,” he said. “In this particular area, we needed to hit the corner of Route 3 and Main Street, and stay as close to that intersection as possible.”

Development Board members reviewed visual simulations of the small antenna, which would be most visible from the intersection of Main and River streets and the Riverside Park area. Brenner argued that the equipment wouldn’t be very obvious to the casual observer walking by on Main Street. It would be no more intrusive than a Direct TV dish, he said.

But board member Donna Difara asked what kind of screening options would be available for the antenna. Brenner said a “stealth enclosure” could be put over it to make it look like a chimney stovepipe.

Community Development Director Jeremy Evans wondered if screening it to make it look like a stovepipe would make it more visible.

“Well, it makes it more visible, but it goes with the architecture of the building as opposed to some kind of mechanical device on top,” Difara said. “Being that it’s a historic building in a historic district, that might be the way to go, in my opinion.”

The board approved the project on the condition that specifications and a photo simulation of a stovepipe-style screen for the antenna are submitted and then reviewed by Evans.

Brenner said Verizon Wireless is considering adding two other micro-cell facilities in the village in the next year or two: one at Saranac Lake High School and another at 37 Broadway, formerly home to Cinderella’s and now Ameriprise Financial, at the corner of Dorsey Street.

“Those are two areas, in addition to this one on Main Street, that were identified as taxing the network,” Brenner said.

Asked if the state Adirondack Park Agency has signed off on the Main Street project, Brenner said Tuesday that he expects a non-jurisdictional letter from the agency. Similar antennas installed in other hamlets around the Park haven’t triggered APA review, he said.