UPDATE During last week’s Planning Board public hearing, two lawyers — one representing Homeland Towers and the other serving as council for 40 residents — went head-to-head over two proposed towers. After Homeland filed site plans for two locations nearly a year ago, residents have been opposing the projects and campaigning for officials to reject the applications, reported the Mahopac News.
According to attorney Andrew Campanelli, representing residents, “It is not enough to simply get you [the Planning Board] to deny the application; it is of equal import to me that it is denied for a reason that does not run afoul of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996,” he said.
Campanelli posed arguments against the towers around aesthetics, the potential adverse effects on property values, and whether they’re necessary.
Campanelli attacked the visual impact analysis previously completed by Homeland Towers, calling it “inherently defective.” “[Homeland] wants to minimize the actual impact, and the study should be discounted. It’s hogwash, and the board should ignore it,” he added.
Attorney Robert Gaudioso, representing Homeland Towers, countered that the balloon/crane tests conducted were done at the appropriate height of 180-feet. “We provided viewpoint locations to be reviewed by the board and took photos at every single viewpoint that was requested,” he said.
Regarding lowering property values, Campanelli urged the board to ignore studies presented by Homeland and listen to local realtors, who estimate property values near a tower will decrease by 30 percent. “Ask any real estate broker, who will tell you the truth and will say when a cell tower is placed unnecessarily close to a home, it reduces the value of those homes,” he told the Planning Board. “Federal courts have ruled that professional opinion letters from real estate brokers are ‘substantial’ evidence.”
Gaudioso countered that Homeland’s studies on property values are valid and support the contention that a cell tower does not adversely impact them. “Our report supplies the data; the data is 15 studies over five years from an MAI (Member Appraisal Institute) certified appraiser,” he said. “That appraiser confirmed that there was no [decrease] in property values.”
Campanelli also questioned the need for the towers and why Verizon didn’t file the application. Regarding gaps in coverage, Campanelli argued that Verizon’s website shows there are no gaps in coverage near either proposed tower. Gaudioso noted that Homeland and Verizon were co-applicants and that 788 residents are in a gap area.
Lastly, Campanelli cried, “fire!” “The average person looks at a cell tower, and the last thing on their minds is a fire. But almost like clockwork, at least once a month a cell tower in the United States catches fire,” he said.
According to Gaudioso, “Tower fires, quite frankly, are extremely rare. We have experienced none for Homeland Towers at all. The issue of fire is completely remote. It’s made of metal, a noncombustible material.”
After the attorneys presented evidence, the board voted to keep the public hearing open until late September or early October, per the Mahopac News. Gaudioso said Homeland would be willing to extend the 150-day shot clock to accommodate.
September 24, 2019