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‘And So Ends A Chapter’

Lakewood Board Approves Cell Tower Site Plan

The Village of Lakewood approved a settlement agreement and site plan with Upstate Tower Company on Monday allowing the construction of a 180-foot cell tower. P-J file photo

LAKEWOOD — After a weekslong hiatus, the Lakewood Board of Trustees passed a pair of measures Monday paving the way for the construction of a 180-foot cell tower on the grounds of the Lakewood Fire Department.

The board had previously filed a notice of appeal after learning that Federal District Judge William K. Sessions III granted summary judgement in favor of Upstate Tower Company LLC in the years long legal dispute. That notice of appeal was intended to give the village time and the opportunity to ensure that its interests in the matter were clear and secure before making any decisions.

“And so ends a chapter for the village…hopefully,” Trustee Ellen Barnes said.

In two separate motions, the board passed an approval resolution for the site plan and affirmed a settlement agreement with Upsate Tower Company.

“Just so everyone is aware, the zoning board of appeals did meet last week and did approve the use variance application from the cell tower company and did approve the same settlement agreement that is now being proposed to the board of trustees,” said Village Attorney John Lamancuso. “They (Upstate Tower) are asking for a resolution approving this site plan and they are asking that the board of trustees approve the proposed settlement agreement.”

Lamancuso worked prior to the meeting to clarify the language of the settlement agreement to ensure that the village would be able to place public safety antennas on the tower in the future, if need be. The updated settlement also clarified that the tower must be a monopole design and not a lattice.

“Hopefully it will happen,” Barnes said of the safety antennas. “It will help firemen and policemen be able to hear their portables inside buildings with the new radios.”

The new antennas would have to be placed above the tree line, from 90-120 feet on the tower after its completion.

“Thank you attorney Lamancuso for your excellent guidance through all of this, on behalf of the village of Lakewood,” Mayor Randy Holcomb said.

The board also passed a new municipal zoning law to establish a fee structure and aesthetic standards for 5G cell phone antennas. These small antenna boxes are part of the newest generation of cell phone technology, and are being installed on utility poles in cities, towns and villages around the country to increase data speeds and availability. The Federal Communications Commission has allowed telecommunications companies the right to install these boxes, and many municipalities have passed local legislation to secure their own interests.

“We applaud the village for being proactive in regulating small wireless facilities,” said Matthew Bourke, Junior Planner for the Chautauqua County Division of Planning and Community Development, in a letter to Mayor Holcomb.

In other business, the board was also briefed by the fire department and Lakewood-Busti Police Department on the use of new protocols to keep emergency personnel safe from the coronavirus outbreak.

The board also elected to wait until a future meeting before making any decisions regarding payment for the planned July 4 fireworks celebrations, which are expected to cost approximately $11,000.

Trustee Doug Schutte noted the importance of the July 4 festivities for local businesses and vendors, and also explained that the village has funds in reserve from its Oktoberfest celebrations that can go towards the fireworks. The board will hold a public hearing on April 13 at 6:45 p.m. regarding its proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.

Currently the budget exceeds the village tax cap, and the board would need to pass a local law, as it has done in the past, before moving forward.

Trustee Richard Fischer discussed the possibility of adding in a specialized phone system so that residents would be able to call in to the public hearing, in light of coronavirus social distancing measures. Village meetings have been broadcast through Zoom since the start of the shutdown, via links that can be found on the Lakewood website.

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