Ltr to ZBA: Deny Alfredo cell tower application; there are alternatives

March 18, 2014
by June and Roger Blanc

To the Zoning Board of Appeals
Ladies and Gentlemen:

We live in close proximity to the site covered by the above-captioned applications (together, the “Applications”) and we respectfully recommend that the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board (together, the “Boards”) deny the Applications for the reasons set forth below and other reasons the Boards may find appropriate.

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Re:  Homeland Towers, LLC/Alfredo Landscaping & Development Corp. application appealing the Building Inspector’s determination that an amendment to the existing Special Use Permit is required, and for an amendment to their Special Use Permit to permit a wireless telecommunication services facility.

Homeland Towers/Verizon/Alfredo Landscaping – Application for Special Use Permit, and Wetlands Permit Approvals for a Wireless Telecommunications Services Facility \ (Major) – 620 Armonk Rd. (NY Route 128) – TM #101.11-1-2

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Abuse of existing Special Use Permit. Alfredo Landscaping & Landscaping Corp. (“Alfredo”) has for many years had a Special Use Permit (the “Permit”) that permits it to operate a nursery business.  As its very corporate name suggests, Alfredo’s use of the property to which the Permit applies has been not simply that of a nursery but instead a commercial excavating and site development company.  Further, the granting of the Permit includes a site plan and terms for operation of the business.  The photographs published in the March 12, 2014 NewCastle NOW article, some of which are attached at the end of this letter, show that Alfredo’s use of the property is not consistent with the existing Permit, the site plan or the terms under which the Permit was granted.  PB sets public hearing for cell tower on Armonk Road; ZBA asks for violations check, NCNOW.org, 3/1014

Notwithstanding representations to the contrary Alfredo’s counsel made to the Boards, complaints have been made to the Town for years and yet New Castle’s buildings department has not brought action to enforce the zone and enjoin Alfredo’s numerous and longstanding violations of the terms of the Permit.

Past reviews of the agricultural use of the site by New York Department of Agriculture have made it clear that the heavy equipment at the site should be limited to what is necessary to move, plant and maintain nursery stock, not equipment involved in site development and excavation.  Current actual use of the Alfredo site clearly exceeds that limitation and is clearly not agricultural in nature.  In addition, this property is no longer in a State Certified Agricultural District.

The Boards should now conduct their own on-site, visual inspections of Alfredo’s property to verify what in fact is going on there.  Alfredo should bring its property into compliance with the existing Permit before being allowed to have any additional permits granted.

The Applications should be denied on the merits.  The Applications request permission to construct, among other things, a 150-foot antenna for telecommunications purposes.  This is an inappropriate construction for a residential neighborhood.  It is as abusive as would be the construction of a gasoline station in a churchyard.  The neighbors are objecting, as well they should, since this would be a notorious and obnoxious eyesore.

Other such antennae appear at Exit 4 off I-684 and at the gasoline filling station off the Hutchinson River Parkway.  They are eyesores there, but at least those places are commercial in nature adjacent major highways, not residential neighborhoods, and so the adverse impacts are somewhat limited.

The eyesore that the Applications envision would involve a significant adverse impact on the quality of the environment of the neighborhood in which the antenna and appurtenant structures would be placed.  They would adversely affect the character and country “feel” of the area, would certainly have an adverse impact on the neighbors’ property values on Route 128 and Whippoorwill Lake Road, and would adversely impact the future development of the Route 128 corridor.  Furthermore, the Town places high value on protecting the visual quality of ridgelines from development and this project would be substantially inconsistent with that objective.  Route 128 is a gateway to New Castle, Armonk and Mount Kisco, as well as to the Burden property, Whippoorwill Park and Wampus Pond, either fronting or adjacent to it.  Hence, the impact of the cell tower is not just on the neighbors but on anyone traveling along Route 128.  The visual impact and use occasioned by this project would be inconsistent with the community’s goals for a well-managed land use development plan that includes environmental and aesthetic considerations.

Approval of the Applications, or either of them, would involve the adoption of changes in the allowable uses within the zoning district, affecting the Alfredo property and adjacent properties, aggregating 25 or more acres of the district, and, accordingly, would be a Type I action within the meaning of the State Environmental Quality Review Act and the regulations thereunder, necessitating the filing of a full environmental assessment form.  See 6 N.Y.C.R.R. §§617.6(a)(2) & 617.4(b).

There are obvious and superior alternatives to this ill-conceived plan.  The antenna might be located on top of the water tower owed by the Town located at the Whippoorwill Club.  That site is among the highest points—if not the highest point—in Westchester County.  We should think the Whippoorwill site would provide better cell-phone coverage than the much lower Alfredo site and would not require a 150-foot antenna above the water tank.  Another possibility would be to use “repeaters” mounted on existing telephone poles.  The Boards should require Verizon to look into and report on these alternatives.  An additional alternative could be allowing a tower located in a commercial area, such as Lexington Avenue, and then only a tower as high as is clearly needed to cover the Route 128 corridor for Verizon.  There is a tower in Armonk on which Verizon could co-locate for the southern part of the territory. 

While 150 feet is the maximum, that does not mean the applicants should be allowed the maximum, given the visual resource issues . In addition, even if the cell tower is put in a more appropriate, commercial location, it need not be a elaborate as the Applications envision.  There are cell towers that look mostly like flag poles, without a big array of electronic paraphernalia at the top.  The applicants could not co-locate as many companies on such a pole and the tower company would therefore make less money, but that does not mean the Town has to allow a more elaborate and intrusive tower.  The Town has to accommodate, at most, only the cell service provider that is applying, not the tower company itself.

For these and other reasons that have been outlined in public presentations to the Boards, the Boards should deny the Applications.
Respectfully submitted,

Roger Blanc

June Blanc

The Planning Board has set Wednesday, April 16, as the date for a public hearing on the application.


Comments(14):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

I for one will tell Verizon that my business goes elsewhere if they put up that tower.  I can live with a dead zone- I know better than to talk on my cell phone when I drive anyway.

By tell Verizon to clean up their act on 03/21/2014 at 2:16 pm

typical NIMBY point of view. I want the tower. it fits into the woods

By oh well on 03/21/2014 at 8:50 pm

I cannot believe they are even considering putting a tower in this location. This is not 684 or some industrial site. it is a nice residential road. On residential property. Seriously, this is disgusting!

By Is nothing sacred any more? on 03/21/2014 at 10:32 pm

You don’t know what you are talking about.  It’s not in the woods, it’s in a field next to the road, and if you had bothered to go look when they flew the balloons to show where it would be you would have seen it was clearly right in the middle of your view when you drive down 128.  And for people that live on the east side of 128, it’s what they see when they come out their front door.  So stop talking for a couple seconds while you drive down 128.

By to oh well on 03/22/2014 at 8:53 am

How many acres is the Alfredo property?  I think the 8th paragraph of this letter may be factually inaccurate.

By Chris Roberta on 03/22/2014 at 10:24 am

Hey, “oh well”... the tower will NOT be in the woods. This is right on the road, and very close to homes. It will stick out like a sore thumb and threatens the character of that area. Additionally, if there is any health risk (controversial), then those who live in the homes around this location will be at risk. At minimum, their home values will go down.

One would think that with all the open space we have around town (and in that area) that any attempt at putting up a cell tower would be hidden way out of sight, and would not threaten nearby homes.

By Barry on 03/23/2014 at 1:21 pm

I don’t claim to be an expert or to really understand the issues here.  Certainly, Roger Blanc’s letter is a well-stated summary of his position. Based on that, I would urge the ZBA to consider whether there really are other alternatives that would provide the necessary cell services to our community, whether they may be actually available, and whether or not they would raise exactly the same issues as Mr. Blanc is raising in his letter.

These services are necessary, not just a convenience, as people may remeber that following Sandy, many people were without landline phone service as the lines were down, and cell service was the only phone service available at that time.  So, if the service is inadequate in some areas, some means needs to be found to enable people to contact police, fire departments, medical services and family in the event of another emergency.

By Geoff on 03/24/2014 at 10:19 am

Loss of home values, which is to speculative to even be considered, is the province of the tax assessor, who, upon tax grievance, lowers taxes. While modest savings annually, when capitalized provide some compensation.

Yes, I know your response, IT will not be enough… Over time, it adds up. 5% reduction on a $30,000 tax bill is $1500 which capitalizes out at our current 1% bank interest rate to be $150,000.

Of course you would unrealistically expect to be paid half the value of your house.

By Dear BArry on 03/25/2014 at 3:51 am

Yes, that is a good point. Cell phone service did eliminate much stress. But this is a classical NIMBY controversy, that is not to say that they are not entitled to their opposition.

By Dear Geoff on 03/25/2014 at 3:54 am

When I bought my home in Chappaqua 6 years ago, I wouldn’t even consider homes where I couldn’t get service inside my home.  Forget about driving, not having cell service inside my house so my kids or work can get a hold of me is a non-starter. In the winter, I see poles all over rural areas.  Rest of the year, much less of an issue.  Your property values will probably go up.

By No service = no sale on 03/26/2014 at 3:44 pm

If this tower was hidden and did not spoil the character of the area along 128 - i’d say ok

If this tower was not in a 100% residential area among homes - i’d say ok

If this tower would not lower home values - i’d say ok

If this tower did not put the health of families in our town at risk… I’d say ok

But this tower threatens ALL of these things. This is the WRONG LOCATION!

Town Zoning Board—PLEASE HELP!!!!

By East end resident on 03/28/2014 at 9:08 pm

It is no health risk. Holding your phone to your ear on one day is more exposure to what ever negativity you fear that there is in a lifetime of being hundreds of yards away from such a tower.

Lowering home values is to speculative. Besides, reduction in tax assessments address such losses, if any. If the value loss is 50% which is even ridiculous to consider, one saves $13,000 per year which translates to $300,000 or more during a home ownership. This seems like a large measure of compensation.

Not quite 100% residential. What is Alfredos, chopped liver?

By says you on 03/30/2014 at 9:02 pm

Sadly, this isn’t even a cell phone company. It is Homeland Tower that is coming in just for profit.  They will install a 150 eyesore with 6 antenna and lease out the space to cell phone providers.

Our home values will drop, some of us will most likely get sick,  (http://www.infowars.com/new-study-links-over-7000-cancer-deaths-to-cell-phone-tower-radiation-exposures/) and our quality of life will go down the tubes. 

To “Dear Barry”, I’d like to borrow your magic calculator.  I for one am not planning on living in my home if the tower is installed. I will not put my family in unnecessary risk.  Studies show property values can drop up to 38% and they will take longer to sell. How about you give me $300,000 (considerably less than 38% of home values) and I’ll think about giving you a few thousand dollars a year.  What a deal!

Yes, Alfredo’s is chopped liver.  Alfredo has a special use permit within a residential area. They have a history of violations.  Their track record of “Ask for forgiveness, not permission” is a huge red flag.

By Just say no on 04/01/2014 at 11:06 pm

there is a give back. Make alfredo’s taxes increase to cover the reductions.

By tax reductions on 04/03/2014 at 10:18 pm


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