Homeland Towers has advanced its proposed West End cell tower a step forward, with the New Castle Planning Board setting a public hearing for June 18.
The decision, made at the board's meeting on Tuesday, was reached as a compromise between board members and the applicant, which is proposing the 130-foot tower for 50 Hoags Cross Rd. It would carry AT&T and have room for three other wireless carriers.
The agreement means that the board will get more time to review an alternative site at nearby Amsterdam Park - Homeland and the town board are negotiating a lease for it - while Homeland is required to submit to related drawings and a balloon test. If the materials are turned in by May 25, which is the deadline for the meeting, the board will deem the application to be "complete" for review purposes.
Homeland, however, still has another hurdle with their proposal. The owner of the Hoags Cross property, the site is listed for Laurentino Rodrigues, needs to clear up code violations before a building permit can be issued.
The tower , whose concerns range from those of aesthetics to safety. The town code, according to town officials, also also discourages placing cell towers in residential settings such as Homeland's proposal.
The deal was reached after a meeting that lasted for more than an hour. It was Homeland's first planning board appearance since September and the reason for the gap of more than six months was due to the fact that the applicant was required to get feedback from Con Edison, which has property near by, over the safety of the tower. Homeland got feedback in January and included it in a February submission for the board.
The meeting itself effectively became a round of negotiations between both sides. Anthony Gioffre, Homeland's attorney, demanded that a public hearing be scheduled as soon as possible - officials present noted that the application has been pending since 2010 - and argued that their proposal is "complete" for code purposes.
“We need to move this application forward," he said.
The board's argument, however, was that the application is not complete because materials for the Amsterdam alternative had not been submitted. The next possible meeting discussed was in three weeks, a time frame deemed unacceptable.
Gioffre argued that the Hoags Cross application should proceed regardless of what is happening with Amsterdam. He expressed concern that the town could still decide to reject the alternative and not sign a lease, and that having a public hearing sooner could allow for public feedback on both sites.
Manny Vicente, Homeland's founder and president, stated that leasing is “not something that happens quickly.” Drawing on professional experience, Vicente stated that negotiations for leases can take months, which is time that he does not want to spend while not having the Hoags Cross plan move through review.
During the meeting, Chairman Richard Brownell defended the planning board's approach.
“We are trying to get more clarity," he said, responding to a complaint from Gioffre.
Another procedural issue raised is the concept of a "shot clock," which, it was explained, is a federal requirement of acting upon the proposal within 150 days. Gioffre felt that it began on April 2, when a material submission was made.
Lynn Weinig, an attorney for the town who is also workin on lease negotiations, asked Gioffre if he would consent to suspend to any shot clock. Responding, Gioffre explained that he could not because his other client, AT&T, was not present.
The mood during the meeting became more amicable when Vicente offered to supply materials for the Amsterdam site, including the drawings and ballon test, which the board accepted.
“We want you to have the information and to consider the options, but we need to move forward.”
Gioffre then offered to give more time until the next appearance, which led to the June date being chosen.