BY KRISTIN SCHULTZ
NISKAYUNA — More bars may be on the way for local Verizon customers, if Niskayuna’s Planning and Town boards approve construction of a 120-foot cell tower on WTRY Road.
The tower is proposed for the same town-owned parcel that is home to the Highway Department and two radio towers.
Under the proposal, Bradenton, Florida-based Tarpon Towers would build and own the tower on a 40-by-80-foot plot of town land. Tarpon would lease the land from Niskayuna, and Verizon would sublease space on the tower for its equipment. Additionally, Tarpon would let Niskayuna use space on the tower for emergency services equipment, rent-free, if the town wanted to.
A Verizon study found there are areas in Niskayuna along Troy-Schenectady Road that lack adequate coverage.
“It’s not that people don’t have coverage,” said Tarpon Towers attorney and Niskayuna resident David Brennan. “There’s a lack of appropriate signal strength, so people may have difficulties.”
Brennan went on to say that the need for the tower is due to the transition to 4G LTE technology and “explosive growth of users and data demand.”
This would be the first Verizon tower in Niskayuna. The company currently has equipment on top of the water tower on Balltown Road by Mohawk Golf Club as well as towers in Clifton Park and Colonie.
Under town code, cellphone towers are not allowed in residential zones. Brennan pointed out that most of the land impacted by the inadequate coverage is, in fact, residential. Town Planner Laura Robertson said that while the Highway Department’s plot is in a residential area, it was grandfathered into new zoning because it provides a public benefit.
“If the town receives enough benefit from a facility, zoning doesn’t apply,” said Robertson. “In the case of the Highway Department, there is enough public benefit even though there are houses around it.”
The location of the proposed tower would provide more stronger signals and more complete coverage. And since the Highway Department and other towers are already located on the property, Brennan said an additional tower would “fit with the municipal character of the property.”
The height of the tower at 120 feet would keep in line with current tower trends.
“In suburban areas, older towers were around 200 feet,” said Brennan. “But a taller tower introduces interference so the trend has been to build lower facilities.”
Tarpon Towers would also allow other cell carriers to co-locate equipment on the tower along with Verizon and the town’s equipment.
Brennan believes this tower would meet Verizon’s coverage needs for some time to come and does not anticipate the need to request any new towers any time soon.
“This is the first [Verizon tower] and there will be a good coverage footprint that would not require another tower in the foreseeable future,” he said.