5 things to know about Verizon’s Pittsford cell tower plan
by: Sarah Taddeo
Verizon Wireless is looking to erect a cell tower behind a Pittsford church, sending some neighbors into an uproar about possible ill effects of the building project. Here’s what you need to know about the proposed tower before a town public hearing on Monday.
Where is it being proposed?
The approximately 100-foot tower, which will be disguised as a tree, is proposed for a small backyard plot of land owned by the United Church of Pittsford, on State Route 64, or South Main Street, just south of the village. The church owns the land, which is zoned Residential Neighborhood, and Verizon would lease the plot with the intention of building a tower that would be used by several mobile phone service carriers.
Why is a cell tower needed?
The new equipment will improve the quality of life for those living, working and traveling in Pittsford by helping them connect to Verizon’s cell network, according to an emailed statement from Verizon.
Jimmy Reader, pastor of United Church of Pittsford, said many congregation members have experienced cell reception issues in the general area.
“We feel it’s good for the community because most of us have a really hard time having good connection with Verizon,” he said. A Verizon service map provided with the tower application shows several sparsely covered spots south and east of Pittsford village.
What’s the process of approval?
Church members heard about the concept several years ago, when Verizon was looking for a new tower location in Pittsford, said Reader. There are at least four cell reception antennas or towers in the immediate town/village area, based on the Verizon coverage map, and there are 13 total cell towers in the Town of Pittsford, said Town Supervisor Bill Smith.
The congregation voted unanimously to allow Verizon to build on church property in early 2016, said Reader, but the project application, submitted to the town last month, needs approval from the Planning Board to move forward.
The tower proposal is different from other development proposals in that tower siting is regulated under federal law, said Smith.
Essentially, the town can’t regulate in a way that would prohibit Verizon from providing cell service to the area. The town must then work with the provider to find a suitable location for a cell tower or antenna in a general area within a reasonable amount of time — in this case, 150 days from when the application is submitted — to ensure proper cell coverage, said Smith.
Board members can raise concerns about a specific site and ask Verizon to provide information about other site options, which they’ve already done in this case.
If the board denies this application, it must provide substantiated reasons in writing. Because the board asked Verizon to clarify pieces of the application, the 150-day clock has been put on hold until the board’s questions are addressed, said Smith.
What do neighbors think?
Several nearby residents feel the installation and its accompanying infrastructure could disrupt the neighborhood.
Mary Carafos, who lives on South Main Street across from the church, said neighbors didn’t get enough notice about the project, though legal notices appeared in the local newspaper and on the town website. Several colorful signs dot her front yard in view of the road, emblazoned with sayings like “No Cell Tower” and offering project information to passers-by.
Verizon is looking to place the tower in a residential neighborhood, while some other area towers are in industrial or agricultural settings, she said. “There’s got to be a better location for it,” she said.
Melissa Peets, whose yard backs up to the church parking lot, said she’s worried about noise emitting from generators that may be installed with the tower, and the effect the whole project could have on local wildlife. She added that she’s never experienced Verizon reception issues in the neighborhood.
A public hearing is planned for the proposal at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the auditorium at Pittsford Sutherland High School, 55 Sutherland Street. The town will hear public comment as part of its continued review of the application.