The Planning Board had a special meeting this past Tuesday, at which, after a public hearing during which no one spoke, the board approved permanently expanding the use of the outdoor space at BackBar, 347 Warren Street, and gave site plan approval to the proposal to convert 735 Columbia Street into a brewery and restaurant. The vote to approve 347 Warren Street was unanimous. In the vote to approve 735 Columbia Street, there was one dissenter.
Planning Board member Larry Bowne objected, as he had before, to the plan to put parking in front of the building, arguing that it was "suburban" and it would be more appropriate if this space were used for outdoor seating. He declared it a "really bad site plan" and alleged that the applicant did not "treat seriously our concern." He also warned his colleagues, "The choices we make shape the fabric of the town."
Stephen Steim told Bowne, "I get the point you're making, and to an extend, I agree." Clark Wieman said he appreciated Bowne's concern, adding, "Many of us are urbanists." Still, when the resolution to approve came to a vote, only Bowne voted against it.
Also at the meeting on Tuesday, the Planning Board opened the public hearing on the proposal from Verizon to install wireless communications equipment on Providence Hall, 119 Columbia Street. In the presentation that preceded the public hearing, the attorney for Verizon showed viewshed photographs to demonstrate that the proposed antennas would not be visible from most locations in the neighborhood. The photographs, all of which were leaf-on, showed that the antennas would not be visible from two locations in the Hudson Historic District--Warren and Second and Warren and First--because they were hidden by trees.
Mike Musso from HDR, the engineer who has been retained as a consultant to the Planning Board for this project, spoke of the site's proximity to a historic district, noted that SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) needed to weigh in, and talked about "means and methods of stealthing or screening the antennas," which as they are proposed are white. He also clarified that, although the Planning Board cannot deny the application based on health concerns if the project meets the standards set by the federal government, whether or not it meets the standards was something he had been tasked to evaluate.
There were questions about the process by which Providence Hall was chosen as a site. This same proposal was made three years ago, but then the site was changed to Bliss Towers. For reasons that are not entirely clear, mounting the antennas on Bliss Towers proved problematic, so the site has shifted back to Providence Hall. It is not clear what other sites, if any, were considered before settling on Providence Hall. As Planning Board member John Cody put it, "Two buildings across the street from each other doesn't suggest that you looked very hard." Musso pointed out, "There are artifacts in the application that indicate Athens was the first place they looked." There are also "artifacts in the application" that suggest that Athens is the intended coverage area, although Musso told the board, "This facility is predominantly going to serve lower Hudson."
There are other issues surrounding this application. Section 284-17 of the city code indicates:
Prior to the approval of any application for a special use permit for wireless telecommunications facilities, a public hearing shall ne held by the City, notice of which shall be published in the official newspaper of the City no less than 10 calendar days prior to the scheduled date of the public hearing. In order that the City may notify nearby landowners, the application shall contain the names and addresses of all landowners whose property is located within 500 feet of any property line of the lot or parcel on which the new wireless telecommunications facilities are proposed to be located.
The problem with this directive is that the people who live in Providence Hall, the very people who are most likely to be impacted most by the proposed antennas, were not notified. According to a Gossips source, notices were not sent to the individual residents of the building. Instead one notice was sent to the building and posted "unobtrusively" on a bulletin board in a common area. A few residents did see the notice, and one of them read a statement during the public hearing on Tuesday. Gossips was able to get a copy of the statement. Because it is a voice not always represented in civic discourse in Hudson, the statement is transcribed in its entirety below:
I have lived at Providence Hall for over 13 years. It is a decent place to live. Having grown comfortable here I will say without being overly sentimental that I hope to live out my life here. However I was very disturbed to find out only recently about Verizon's proposal to build a 5G cellular tower on the roof of the building which I have called home for so long. I live on the top floor here--the 5th floor. To think that this monstrosity will be a scant 10 feet above my head causes me a great deal of anxiety and concern.
Would Verizon think of erecting such a dangerous, radiation emitting tower on top of a school? Then why even consider building it on top of a structure that is home to over 100 elderly and/or disabled people? It's almost as if they are saying that we, the people, don't count or don't matter. This is unconscionable. The entire community of Hudson should rally to the cry of: not on my roof, not in my backyard, not anywhere near a residential community. Especially in such a non-gentrified, impoverished, almost forgotten area of the city.
People know about Verizon. Perhaps not so much about the corporation which owns P[rovidence] H[all]. It's called Arbor Management and it's headquartered in the state of Delaware. Delaware is called the corporate state because corporations pay no corporate taxes there.
Arbor Management owns 2 properties in town--P[rovidence] H[all] and Schuyler Court, both on lower Columbia Street. They also own several dozen other Section 8 properties throughout the entire northeast region of the country.
Between these 2 local, extremely lucrative properties Arbor Management rakes in almost $2 million in income per year. And they pay no property taxes. In essence, they have a free ride. They don't contribute to the local economy or tax base.
P[rovidence] H[all] is owned and run by a for-profit corporation. It is not a charity. Simply taking a cursory look at the numbers, one can see that this is an extremely profitable business for Arbor Management. And now, by prostituting their building, i.e. renting out the roof to Verizon, we see the ugly, selfish motive of corporate greed. Arbor Management gives hypocritical lie to the very name of the building. There is absolutely nothing providential about this insatiable lust for ever increasing profit. Especially when the health and safety of thousands of people are at stake. Shame on them. And shame on anyone in authority who condones this proposal!
I can remember 20 years ago when this community rallied and fought against the cement plant. Against seemingly overwhelming odds, this town stated unequivocally--not in our backyard! And we, the people, won that battle. Let us come together once more in the same spirit of togetherness and defeat this monstrous proposal. Let not the unholy alliance of corporate greed and hypocrisy be consummated!
At the meeting on Tuesday, Rick Suhocki, an engineer for Verizon, denied that what was being proposed was a 5G site. Rather he asserted that it was a 4G site, and there were no plans to make it 5G. He maintained that if they wanted to upgrade to 5G, they would have to go through the permitting process again.
The public hearing on the proposal will continue at the next Planning Board meeting, which is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, November 10.
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