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Town council holds public hearing on proposed Beartown FM tower

BEEKMANTOWN The people have spoken regarding whether or not a 110-foot FM tower should be allowed at Beartown Ski Area, with people landing on both sides of the issue. The Beekmantown Town Council held a public hearing last week at which more than 50 people voiced a mixture of support and concerns for the proposal. Ed Flanagan, president of Radio Broadcasting Services Inc., detailed why the Beartown Ski Area location was selected over other possible sites. According to Mr. Flanagan, engineers investigated 60 other potential sites, looking at how tall the tower would have to be in order to meet Federal Communications Commission regulations. In each case, in order to build on one of these other sites, the tower would have to be at least three times as tall between 328 feet and 525 feet requiring the tower to be painted and have strobes or other lights. Two balloon tests to measure the visual impact of the tower were also conducted in June and September. The results showed the tower would not be visible except from a short stretch of Beartown Road, just before the ski areas parking lot. The project is seen as essential by many of those involved with the not-for-profit ski area. The revenues that are generated by this tower will be long-term and very important to our ability to continue as a business, said Tim Howley, current president of the volunteer board of directors that operates Beartown. The last few years have been difficult due to the weather, added Tom Murnane, another Beartown volunteer. Its an opportunity to upgrade. Despite overwhelming support for Beartown Ski Area itself, many in the audience expressed concern about the proposed project. Im not happy about a little more of my zoning protection being stripped away, said Kathrym Hartung, who lives on The Ninety Road. West Beekmantown has many great resources that big business would love to get a hold of. The biggest objections were directed toward the language included in the application itself, which includes the written remarks: This is an essential service. The Wind Horse wind energy project was approved last year as an essential service. It appears that in this town the applicant gets to decide if theyre an essential service, complained Lee Clark of Rand Hill Road. Many in the audience nodded their heads in agreement as Councilwoman Sydney Garrant described the project as a redundant service, not an essential service. Under Beekmantown zoning laws, only municipal utilities and public entities can qualify as essential services. There was also confusion about whether RBSI was seeking a special use permit, which is granted by the town board, or a conditional use permit, which would need to be approved by the zoning board. All of us are very concerned about our zoning laws and what can happen when certain words are used on these applications, said Councilwoman Garrant. Language is being scrutinized to make sure that what is on the form is what we get. Others wondered what would happen if the ski area did close and if the area would then be opened up to similar development. Russ Hartung of The Ninety Road worried about the precedent that approval would set. Wind towers are using the existence of the current communication towers to say that they should be allowed since there are already towers, he said. We need to be very vigilant about this. Supervisor Dennis Relation insisted any new projects would still have to come before the board for approval. In the end, Mr. Flanagan agreed RBSI would resubmit the application without the references to conditional use permit or essential services. The council also requested he obtain an updated letter from the state Department of Environmental Conservation stating no threatened or endangered species will be impacted by the development.

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