With summer well underway, the location of the Pawling cell tower is still under negotiation between the Planning Board and Homeland Towers, LLC. For the past two years, this divisive issue has attracted the attention of concerned Pawling residents, who feel that erecting a 158 foot tower at 73 Cunningham Lane is not appropriate for a residential neighborhood. Their concerns are related to visibility of the tower, real estate value, legal requirements, and environmental risks.
The residents also point out a few practical troubles with the proposed site. Incomplete engineering studies needed to determine the tower’s position, fail to reflect improved cell service in certain areas. Furthermore, placing the tower at Cunningham Lane would not address what emergency services have identified as the biggest dead zone: an area along Route 55 and parts of Route 292.
Homeland Towers responded to these objections by explaining that they have researched other locations and have not found any superior to the Cunningham Lane property. The vote on Homeland Towers’ proposal was scheduled for April of this year; it has been postponed every month since, including this month.
The reason for these extensions is a hopeful, new location that Homeland Towers has been investigating. First discussed in December 2013, a property owned by the Pawling Mountain Club seems to be a reasonable compromise. While applications were considered for several other sites in town, like municipal sites that would benefit tax-payers, the PMC property came out on top. Since this site already hosts power lines, the addition of the tower would not be an eyesore.
If the Pawling Mountain Club signs a new lease, the controversy surrounding the Cunningham Lane property will no longer be an obstacle to the institution of the cell tower. Homeland Towers would presumably write a new proposal which the Planning Board would then vote on, rather than the current Cunningham Lane proposal. This seems likely, since in mid-July, Homeland Towers’ lawyer Christopher Fisher wrote to the Planning Board to request an extension of the vote to September 30t. Because Homeland Towers is “continuing to pursue leasing property owned by the Pawling Mountain Club,” they “do not seek a decision on the pending application at this time.”
Submitting a new proposal for the PMC property would require redoing a State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) inspection, among other documentation.
Pawling residents have reason to be optimistic that the end to the cell tower debate is drawing near. “At this time,” Fisher wrote in his letter, “the Applicants reasonably believe a lease will be secured for the PMC property.”