Balloon test for proposed Altamont cell tower to take place Jan. 15

The Enterprise — Sean Mulkerrin

The view traveling into Altamont along Main Street, in September, of a simulated 120-foot monopole telecommunications tower that is being proposed for a village-owned parcel of land on Agawam Lane. Residents said they had not been notified of the test that made the simulated view possible, and argued that a second “balloon float” test was needed so that residents may also get an accurate depiction of what the proposed tower will look like in winter, when the trees are bare.

ALTAMONT — A second “balloon float” test for a proposed cell tower to be erected on village-owned property on Agawam Lane will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 15., between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The balloon float is used to determine the visual impact the proposed tower would have on the village. For the test, a red weather balloon approximately 3 feet in diameter will be floated 120 feet into the air; then pictures will be taken of the balloon from various points around the village. Finally, a cell-phone tower will be photoshopped into the picture to give an accurate representation of what the tower will look like from those spots around the village. The photos from the first balloon float are available at Village Hall.

At the December village planning board meeting, residents who live close to the proposed tower said they had not been notified of the first balloon float, in September, which also became an issue.

Because, in September, trees are full of leaves.

Residents asked that another test be performed now so that they can see what the tower would look like in winter. The planning board agreed with the residents, and the applicant agreed to perform another test.

The planning board at its December meeting had also elected to keep open the public-comment period for the proposed tower. So now, at the Jan. 28 meeting, village residents will be able to offer comment on what the proposed tower may look like in winter.  

In 2013, the village board voted unanimously to sign a land-license agreement with Enterprise Consulting Services, of Slingerlands, to put a communications tower on the site at 23 Agawam Lane. At the time, then-trustee, now mayor, Kerry Dineen said the agreement allowed ECS to market Altamont to communications carriers.

Although the agreement was signed five years ago, the village does not receive any compensation from ECS until the tower is built. The agreement is a five-year lease that ECS has the right to extend for nine additional five-year terms. ECS has the right to not renew the agreement if it gives the village 90 days’ notice prior to the end of a five-year lease period. The village does not have the right to terminate the lease.

It’s taken since 2013 for ECS to sign up enough tenants to make the tower economically feasible. When the company presented its plan to the village board five years ago, Verizon was the only tenant; now, AT&T and Hudson Valley Wireless have signed on as well.

At the December planning board meeting, resident Harvey Vlahos asked how much the village would be receiving in rent from ECS. Tim Wilford, the board’s chairman, responded that he did not know how much the village would receive, and added that that was a village board issue and outside of the scope of the planning board’s job.

Josh Silver, the lawyer for ECS,  was asked how much the company was paying the village, and he responded by repeating Wilford’s point, that “the rent that the village would receive is not germane to the current conversation.”

In 2013, The Enterprise reported that the village would receive about $7,000 per year per carrier.

In the event of inclement weather, alternate dates for the balloon float will be Wednesday, Jan. 16, or Thursday, Jan. 17, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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