RAY BROOK - The state Adirondack Park Agency wants to ease the permitting process for installing a second cell tower in a site that already has an APA-approved cell tower.
The agency's Regulatory Programs Committee got its first look Thursday at a draft general permit geared for the "horizontal co-location" of cell towers.
The permit would allow for installation of one new teleccomunications tower "in the immediate proximity" of an existing tower approved by the agency, as long as existing access roads and utility infrastructure are used to the "greatest extent practicable." The permit would also make it easier to replace a pre-existing tower to allow for co-location of another cell service provider on that tower.
An applicant for the general permit wouldn't need to give the APA the same level of detail it requires for a full-blown cell tower application, since much of that information would already have been compiled for the first cell tower on the site. The timeline for the agency to make a decision on a general permit is also much shorter than for a normal cell tower permit application - 10 days versus 90 days.
Holly Kneeshaw, the APA's acting deputy director for Regulatory Programs, told the committee that the general permit was drafted in response to feedback the agency received at a January meeting with local government officials, cell service providers and legislators, including state Sen. Betty Little. The cost of performing agency-required visual analysis for each tower site was cited by cell providers at that meeting as an obstacle to cell tower development in the Park.
"The point of this general permit is to capitalize on the previous analysis done by APA staff and by the board on these sites, and allow that second tower to meet certain conditions and be constructed on the site," Kneeshaw said.
The general permit could not be used if there are "significant adverse changes in visibility of the tower as seen from public viewing areas," Kneeshaw said.
Kneeshaw noted that the agency has already approved multiple towers on one site on three different occassions - once in the town of Lewis and twice in the town of North Hudson.
Commissioner Cecil Wray asked why staff didn't set a specific distance the new tower could be located from the existing tower.
"How far is 'immediate proximity?'" Wray asked. "Would it be better to have a specific distance?"
Kneeshaw said staff left that open to interpretation based on how an applicant is able to use the existing access road and infrastructure on the site.
"I think it's important to leave some discretion and judgement," said APA Chairman Curt Stiles. "It does depend on the terrain and geography of the situation. If you put an artifical distance of 1,000 or 2,000 feet, you could get into more restriction than help. The intent here is to make the process more user-friendly."
Commissioner Richard Booth, however, said he wasn't comfortable with allowing a second tower on the same site.
"I think a tower of the magnitude we've been looking at should be an individual project," he said. "We're not talking about a small windmill next to somebody's house. We're talking about a big commercial tower."
The committee approved a motion Thursday to move forward with the process of crafting the general permit, and the full agency board voted to do the same Friday. Booth opposed both motions.
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