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Adirondack Coalition Approves Of FCC Rule On Tower Expansion

Michael Dorausch/Flickr

It looks like cell towers in the Adirondacks will continue to blend in.

A coalition of Adirondack groups are relieved that new rules issued by the Federal Communications Commission regarding the expansion of communication towers preserves the regulatory oversight of the Adirondack Park Agency over the structures.

In 2013, the FCC proposed rules to streamline approvals for expansion of existing telecommunications towers.  It had proposed allowing an additional 10 percent in tower height unless it "would defeat the existing concealment elements......"

The federal agency’s proposal also eliminated the need to seek state and local permission for changes in existing towers. In the Adirondacks, that meant regulatory overview by the Adirondack Park Agency would be bypassed.

In January, a coalition of Adirondack groups wrote to the Federal Communications Commission stating their concern that the proposed rule would grant automatic approval and risk formerly concealed towers to become visible.

Adirondack Council Spokesman John Sheehan says they were concerned that while trying to do something productive the FCC was ignoring successful tower policy in the Adirondacks.  “The FCC thought that it would be a good idea to allow cell companies to be able to expand service on existing towers without having to go back for a new permit. While that may work in a lot of locations to provide additional service without imposing any additional burden on the landscape or the view, there would be certain situations in which the Park Agency would feel, and any casual observer might feel, that the expansion of the tower took an invisible tower and turned it into a visible one. And that was the situation we were hoping to avoid in the Adirondacks.”

Newly released rules from the FCC preserve state, local and APA regulatory oversight.
Central Adirondack Partnership for the 21st Century Executive Director Nicholas Rose is pleased the FCC is allowing continued local control.  “It’s a rare instance of the federal government showing common sense in saying in certain environmentally sensitive areas like the Adirondack Park you really should leave it to local and state jurisdiction to say this is what makes sense here and this is what’s gonna fly here and this is what fits in here.”

Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth says the region has an excellent track record dealing with communication towers in scenic areas and it was important that the FCC recognize that local and state governments must have the ability to make zoning decisions.  “We’ve done a good job in siting and customizing these towers locally. We also did not want the new FCC rules to eliminate the need to seek Park Agency or local jurisdiction for a change or expansion in telecommunication towers or equipment. Because that would leave the Park Agency out of the oversight of those  tower expansions.”

The Adirondack Park Agency established standards in 2002 to allow for expansion of cellular towers while enforcing a “substantially invisible” requirement.