HUDSON — The public hearing for Verizon antennas atop Providence Hall will enter its ninth month as the application faces a new challenge from the city code.
Code Enforcement Officer Craig Haigh told the planning board last week Verizon’s proposal does not meet the requirements under the city code.
The application is for a special-use permit from Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems, LLC, on behalf of Verizon Wireless to install and operate wireless communications equipment on the roof of Providence Hall, 119 Columbia St. The building houses low-income seniors and residents with disabilities.
Haigh said the applicant will need an area variance from the zoning board because the plan does not have enough space from the antennas to the perimeter of the building required by the code.
Haigh’s interpretation is based on the building being considered the support for the antenna, meaning the measurements according to the code are based on the height of the building.
Haigh thinks the code is based on the idea that if antennas or other equipment get blown off their support, they would come down onto the land they are approved to be on.
“I’ve seen a structure come off of a building and land in the middle of the street, fortunately nobody got hurt,” he said of a 2013 incident.
The elevations and measurements of the antenna locations were not provided with the initial proposal, Haigh said.
Haigh’s appearance added to a long list of obstacles the applicant has faced over the past year, including petitions from residents and a lawyer hired by a group of locals questioning the data collection proving the need for the antennas’ location.
Allyson Phillips, an attorney for Verizon from Young/Sommer, LLC, said the applicant had a different interpretation of the code.
She said the code chapter about telecommunications equipment was unclear and structure height appeared to apply to a stand-alone tower, not a building.
Phillips said Verizon can make a clear case for a waiver by proving they will not pose a danger. Board members determined the public should have an opportunity to give feedback once the application is amended, thus extending the already months long hearing.
Board member Larry Bowne said it should be on behalf of the applicant, not the board, to keep the public hearing open.
“The applicant failed to read our code and failed to understand their own application,” he said.
Phillips said the applicant submitted their application to Haigh in March 2020 and was never advised of the city’s interpretation of the code.
Bowne said the failure to apply the code is the fault of the applicant and not Haigh’s responsibility, calling her response “disingenuous.”
Verizon project manager Kathy Pomponio said the applicant did not interpret the code the same way as Haigh and she has never seen anything like the city’s code section on telecommunications equipment or Haigh’s interpretation.
Verizon will have an application for a waiver by the board’s June 8 meeting.
Michael Colberg, a member of the public attending the meeting, called the applicant a “very arrogant” group of people.
“Verizon continues to be perplexed when they have to deal with a reality other than their own,” he said.
The city, not Verizon, will be liable if anything goes wrong with the antennas, he added.
The board is not allowed to legally consider health implications of the antennas, which residents have expressed concerns about, other than physical impacts such as the antennas falling off the roof.
Colberg said a court hearing in July may change that rule. Flyers were disseminated in Providence Hall warning of radiation impacts that the board had no part in, board members said at their meeting last month.