NISKAYUNA — The Town Board on Aug. 28 unanimously voted to allow construction of a controversial telecommunications tower on WTRY Road.
Florida-based Tarpon Towers will be permitted to lease wooded, town-owned land near Niskayuna’s Water and Sewer and Highway departments and build a 120-foot tall monopole. The tower is expected to improve cellphone service along Route 7.
The town Planning Board and Zoning Commission approved the project n June, sending its recommendation to the Town Board.
The proposal had been under commission review for more than a year and had been opposed by people who live on or near WTRY Road. Residents listed health concerns, declining property values and an altered neighborhood as their reasons against the tower.
Nobody spoke against the tower proposal during the “privilege of the floor” portion of the meeting.
Board Member John Della Ratta, who as chairman of the town’s Economic Development, Historic Preservation and Environmental Conservation Committee discussed the proposal with members of the public at the committee’s Aug. 3 session, believes better cell coverage was the key issue.
“We believe it’s in the public interest to close the gap in coverage,” Della Ratta said.
Della Ratta also said the town hopes to improve the WTRY neighborhood.
“We’re going to do the best we can to create a buffer to have as minimal impact as we can,” he said. “I know a good portion of the money that we get [from the lease agreement], we’re going to put directly into landscaping there. I don’t know if we’ll make them completely happy but I think we’ll make them happier.”
Construction is expected to start in early 2019.
Sewer rate hike
In other business, the board unanimously voted to raise sewer tax rates for the town’s District 6 — the larger of the two sewer districts in town. Residents will now pay $2.50 per 1,000 gallons of water treated — an increase of 50 cents per gallon from the old rate.
The commercial rate rose to $3 per 1,000 gallons of treated sewage.
“This will pay for the first two phases of the wastewater treatment plant, the debt service is coming due on $13.9 million in bonding that is critical to the future of the community,” said board member Denise Murphy McGraw.
McGraw said that while the residential rate has increased by 25 percent, most people will not pay that much. “It will be closer to 9 [percent] to 13 [percent].”