Cell Tower Plan Voted Down By Zoning Board

The Jamestown Zoning Board of Appeals has turned down the proposal to install a cellphone tower in a residential zone.

The board on Wednesday voted down the use and area variance submitted by Nixon Peabody, representatives for Verizon Wireless. The variance petition proposed the installation of a 100-foot wireless telecommunications tower adjacent to 40 Hallock St, which is owned by Chandler Street Baptist Church, also known as Hillcrest Baptist Church. This area of the city is zoned R-1, single-family residential, and according to the zoning laws for the city, cellphone towers are only permitted in a commercial or manufacturing zone. Also, the city’s zoning laws state that cell towers should not exceed 60 feet in height, but the proposed was 100 feet.

James Olson, zoning board member, made the motion to deny the use and area variance petition because information provided by Robert Brenner, Nixon Peabody attorney, and Patrick Makubire, Verizon Wireless radiofrequency design engineer, showed that there might be alternative sites that might not be perfect, but acceptable for cellphone coverage. All six attending members of the zoning board — Ellen Ditonto, chairwoman; Patricia Calanni; Richard Hanson; Sally Martinez; Judith Sandson; and Olson — voted for the motion denying the petition.

Peter Larson was the only member of the zoning board not in attendance.

Prior to the vote, Ditanto said judging by the coverage maps provided by Brenner and Makubire, an alternative site at Bergman and a new tower that will be coming online in Celoron would give the area coverage in all, but one small location. Ditanto asked Makubire if the proposed cell tower was placed at Bergman Park and when the new cell tower in Celoron comes online, would it provide the necessary cellphone coverage. Makubire answered by stating “absolutely not.”

Since the last time the zoning board heard the petition on the proposed cell tower in November, city officials and staff met with Brenner and Makubire. During this meeting, city officials proposed nine alternative site locations for the cell tower instead of in a residential neighborhood. Along with five locations at Bergman Park, city officials also suggested the Social Security Office, 7-11, an office park and Schutt’s Saw and Mower, which are all located near the intersection of Hazeltine Avenue and Baker Street.

All nine of the site locations suggested by city officials are so far out of the area that needs coverage that no tower in these locations would work, Brenner said.

He said they still did testing in these areas to ensure they are covering all bases necessary to show that the Hillcrest Baptist Church is the best location for the cell tower to prevent gaps in coverage. He added that cellphone tower locations are patterned like a honeycomb and they need a tower in each section to provide the necessary coverage.

Brenner said Verizon is proposing more and more applications for cellphone towers in residential neighborhoods throughout Upstate New York. He said because of the evolution in the technology, more and more cellphone towers are necessary. The use and area variance applications for the proposed cellphone tower was submitted to city officials May 15, 2017.

During the public comment period of the hearing, all seven people who spoke voiced their opposition to the proposal for a cellphone tower in a residential neighborhood. Reasons included possible health risk, depreciation in property values, potential drainage issues where the tower was proposed to be built and that it would set a bad precedent for the whole city by approving this cellphone tower to be located in a residential location along Hallock Street near Summit, Norton, Hilldale and Newland avenues.

This was the third time the zoning board held a hearing on the proposal. The issue was tabled for more information following hearings held in September and November.