In the News  Archive

FCC backs scenic vistas - Adirondacks advocates praise federal stance on new cell towers

Times Union
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

By Brian Nearing

Albany - Environmental groups in the Adirondacks on Wednesday praised a federal decision to roll back a proposed loosening of rules on cellphone towers that they feared could have led to an uncontrolled spate of unsightly taller towers marring scenic vistas.

The Federal Communication Commission decided against adopting a rule that would strip state and local control over expansion of existing cellphone towers if heights were increased by 10 percent or less, a move that could have left the Adirondack Park Agency with no say over automatic expansions.

Instead, the FCC decided automatic approvals would not be allowed if expansions would make towers into potential eyesores. The new policy requires that automatic installations be "substantially invisible;" otherwise, local officials like the APA keep their authority to review plans.

"The Adirondack Park needs cell towers, but not ugly cell towers, and today we applaud the FCC for agreeing," said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. "This park is a mixture of public and private lands that depends on its wilderness character to attract millions of visitors and hundreds of thousands of seasonal residents each year," he added.

The council was among 10 environmental and historic preservation organizations protesting the potential change to the FCC last winter. The groups have worked with cellphone companies to comply with APA rules adopted in 2002 that required the towers to be hidden as much as practicable.

Since that point, the agency has issued more than 157 permits for new towers, replacements of existing towers or antennas, or addition of antennas to existing towers or other structures.

A spokesman for Verizon Wireless, one of the largest cellphone companies that operate in the Adirondacks, said the company was satisfied with the FCC decision.

"We're happy with the ruling," said spokesman John O'Malley. "We've always sought to strike a balance between people's desire for improved wireless service in the area and efforts to preserve the environment. We've got good relationships with the APA and other groups in the North Country, as shown in our ability to improve coverage along the Northway, and we expect those partnerships to continue."

"This ruling will help preserve the integrity of historic sites and communities across New York, whose residents have worked hard to protect their rich heritage and unique charm," said Daniel Mackay, director of public policy for the Preservation League of New York State.

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