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.

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