The Verizon wireless company has been negotiating for the right to replace two light poles at the athletic fields of South and West Albany high schools with slightly taller masts that would hold cell phone antennas in addition to the lights. No objections have been filed at West, but three residents near South submitted comments with concerns.
Russell Allen, business director for Greater Albany Public Schools, told me last week the district and Verizon were closing in on a deal. Among other things, the agreement would have the company pay GAPS around $1,400 a month in lease payments for each of the antennas. The deal would be for five years and could be renewed four times, for a total of 20 years. If the phone company discontinues either of the antennas before the expiration, it would pay the district something, probably around $5,000.
Allen says the phone company approached the school district with the idea, presumably to improve its cell phone coverage in South and West Albany.
While the negotiations continue, Verizon asked the school district, as property owner, to apply for the necessary city permits. I stumbled across the “conditional use” applications while — snowed in and prevented from riding the bike — wandering through the online list of pending Albany planning projects.
Verizon wants to replace one wooden light pole at each high school with a steel pole to carry the antenna, along with associated equipment on the ground. The stadium lights on the poles would be reused on the new poles. At West, the company wants to replace a 78.5-foot wooden pole at the baseball field with a 90-foot steel mast. At South, the steel pole would be near the football field grandstands and be 80 feet tall, replacing a wooden pole that’s 71.5 feet tall. In both cases, the antenna equipment would be painted flat gray, and the poles themselves would be painted brown.
In the city planning division, David Martineau has been handling the review. Property owners within 200 feet of each site were notified and had until Dec. 23 to submit comments. At South, three residents objected. Two from the same address, Martineau told me, wrote about the effects of electromagnetic radiation, interference with reception and falling ice, among other things. The third was concerned about the view and property values.
If he hasn’t already done so, Martineau will make a tentative decision on the conditional use permits and notify GAPS as well as the commenters. And unless someone asks for a public hearing, that will be it. (hh)