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Cell towers approved for Damascus

December 24, 2013

The Damascus supervisors voted unanimously on December 16 to approve conditional-use applications for a corporation looking to construct two broadband cellular towers in the township.
The next step for Cellco Partnership, doing business as Verizon Wireless, is to file land-use development applications with Damascus. If those are approved, building permits would be sought by the company.

The conditional-use approval did not come without some hesitation. During the vote, Chairman Jeffrey Dexter said, “I am going to say aye and that’s very reluctant.” The supervisor declined to elaborate, saying only that Verizon has met all legal standards in the project.

Dexter is also chairman of the Upper Delaware Council (UDC), which earlier this month voted to send a letter to Damascus. The letter warned that two broadband cell towers will not meet River Management Plan (RMP) standards in part because the proposed towers “will represent major commercial development, which is listed as an incompatible use in both scenic and recreational sections of the Upper Delaware boundaries.”

Dexter, as the UDC chairman, abstained from the vote. In an interview after the Damascus meeting, Dexter said there is nothing in the RMP that specifically says no cell towers may be constructed in the township. When asked if the UDC’s disapproval of the project had an impact on his reluctance to vote in favor of it as a Damascus supervisor, Dexter said, “a little,” but did not elaborate.

Speaking of the project, Dexter indicated he wasn’t happy about the way it was being conducted, but again declined to elaborate, saying only, “It was a long process.”

If the project is fulfilled, two 189-foot towers would stand in the township, one near the Callicoon border and the other near the Narrowsburg border.

The supervisors noted that several conditions must be met before the project continues.

Those conditions include: no building permits shall be issued unless Verizon ensures that the township will receive voiceover 4G LTE service, which Verizon considers a “golden standard” and a service that has the most coverage; the company must handle any road-use issues that arise from construction of the towers; and Verizon must communicate with supervisors about where the company may develop within the township in five years.

Not all citizens at the meeting agreed with the supervisors approving of the cell tower project, but others said there is a need for increased cell phone service in the area.