HUDSON — Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems is requesting a special-use permit on behalf of Verizon Wireless to install wireless communication equipment on the roof of Providence Hall at 119 Columbia St.
The application asks permission to install 4G equipment, not 5G equipment, which has been rumored, Planning Board Chairwoman Betsy Gramkow said at a planning board public hearing.
Six antennas would be installed in three different locations on the roof, under the proposal.
Although the application is incomplete, the board opened the hearing, which will continue at the board meeting 6 p.m. Nov. 10.
“The application is missing some technical information which has been requested,” city attorney Victoria Polidoro said. “This board chose to schedule the hearing early on so that it could begin receiving public comments.”
The board is not permitted to consider health impacts of telecommunications installations according to federal law, Gramkow said. “We are severely constrained by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission),” she said.
Michael Musso, a senior project manager and risk assessor at HDR, a design firm specializing in architecture, engineering, environmental and construction services that has been consulting for the planning board throughout the application process.
“This application, I think, has a lot of review left to go with it and a lot of comments to hear based on the location of where it’s being proposed, etc.,” Musso said.
The four criteria for the application are need and justification, visuals and aesthetics, alternative site options and compliance with the city code, Musso said.
Verizon’s attorney, Allyson Phillips of Young/Sommer LLC, Attorneys-at-Law, presented photo simulations of the visuals of the antennas, which would extend 9 feet above the roof, she said.
Planning Board member Laura Margolis said it was clear during a site visit that Warren Street residents would have a clear view of the antennas.
“I find it curious that that angle wasn’t even approached in this presentation,” she said.
Project Manager Cathy Pomponio defended the images and said the company could not trespass on property for the photo simulations.
“You could have stood in Prison Alley, which is public property, and taken a picture up,” Margolis told Steve Matthews, spokesman for Tectonic Engineering & Survey Consultants, the company that provided the simulations.
Alexandra Semchenko, who attended as a member of the public, also questioned the reliability of the simulations.
“Verizon did not take into consideration what the site would look like without foliage,” she said.
Wind gusts in the area bring down trees, she said.
“I don’t see anything in the plans that would ensure that there was prevention of lightning strikes or doing anything to ensure that this is not a place that will attract fire,” Semchenko said. “Because this is a building that houses primarily disabled and elderly people and I think it’s just a really, really kind of idiotic proposal to have such risk on top of a population that’s unable to get out of the building if something were to happen.”
Glenn Roney, who lives on the fifth floor of Providence Hall, said he was disturbed to hear about the proposal because of concern for the safety of the elderly and disabled who live in the building.
“The entire community of Hudson should rally to the cry of ‘Not on my roof, not in my backyard, not anywhere near a residential community,’ especially in such a non-gentrified, impoverished, almost forgotten area of the city,” Roney said.
Margolis and Planning Board member John Cody called attention to a part of the site plan labeled Athens.
The label made it seem like Athens was the first site they looked at, Musso said.
“Verizon has said, ‘Well, we could just build a tower, I don’t think you’d like that, isn’t this (antennas) better than that (a tower)?’” Margolis said. “Well, did they say that to Athens? Because they also could have just built a tower over there.”
Planning board members raised questions about transparency of the application and how necessary it is for the antennas to be located in Hudson.
The board asked for site evaluative criteria and site selection alternatives with the application, which were not received, member Larry Bowne said.
“If it was clear what sites had been examined, the criteria for site selection and how it was determined Providence Hall is the optimal site to more forward on, a lot of the concerns expressed at the public hearing could have been addressed better,” Bowne said.
“I think that I can just suggest to you strongly that you don’t make the same mistake again next month,” he said.
He stressed the value the board and the public puts on transparency.
“It’s not going to work here unless you have transparency with the town, right?” Bowne said. “I mean, not with this board and not with the citizens here,” Bowne said. “You’ve got to be really clear about what you did, how you decided it, how you eliminated other sites. If you do that in a transparent and I think rational way, if indeed this is the only place this could go, I believe that people will understand your argument.”
Additional information would be provided, Phillips said, adding she appreciates the importance of transparency to the board.
Gramkow encouraged members of the public to continue to send comments to the board regarding the proposal as the public hearing continues.