ELIZABETHTOWN - The regional environmental group Adirondack Council is lobbying the Adirondack Park Agency to require more widespread shared location of cell carrier transmitters on towers inside the Blue Line.
In a letter APA Environmental Program Specialist George "Skip" Outcalt, Council employee Scott Lorey requested the agency to require cell carriers to share a tower instead of building separate towers at proximate locations.
"Companies should be encouraged or mandated to seek co-location when a nearby tower is available," Lorey wrote, suggesting the APA fix some "obvious flaws" in the agency's tower policy in force for more than seven years.
Since 2008, the APA has approved construction of about 15 new cell towers in the wake of the deaths of several snowbound motorists on I-87.
In contrast, 25 co-locations have been permitted by the agency in the same time period.
The agency is currently considering a T-Mobile project in the town of Inlet that would allow a tower to be constructed a stone's throw away from an existing Verizon tower.
The APA recently approved a cell project in North Hudson that will allow two towers on the same parcel near the Northway.
One suggestion that the Council has made before, is to require that the applicant show it has attempted to co-locate on existing structures within a reasonable distance of its site and explain in detail why no option other than a new tower is feasible, Lorey said.
"It appears that telecommunications companies, for the most part, are not sharing space on each others' towers, as was expected," he said.
Last Fall, regional executives from the four major wireless carriers told agency commissioners that sharing space doesn't make good business sense, as they are competing entities. They also argued that the use of varying cellular technologies requires differing tower siting.
The APA typically strives to keep the elevation of cell towers as low as possible to limit the impact on the park's aesthetic character.
But for the Council, taller towers are more desirable than several at the same location.
"Even a slightly taller tower will have less environmental impact than having to construct a second tower," Lorey said. "Depending on locations, a second tower may require additional tree cutting, road building and utilities to be installed."
APA staff and cell carrier executives have said that in order for co-location to be effective, towers would have to be significantly taller to accommodate multiple cellular arrays.
According to cell carrier officials, the average cost of construction of towers statewide is $57,000, while in the Adirondack Park, the cost doubles to about $104,000.