Friday, March 12, 2021

News from the Planning Board: Part 1

The Planning Board meeting on Tuesday lasted for four hours. As in the past, Gossips will cover the meeting in parts, reporting on each of the three issues currently before the Planning Board in a separate post, beginning with the Verizon proposal to install wireless communications equipment on the roof of Providence Hall.

The public hearing on Verizon's proposal, which began in October 2020, continued last night. For the first time, a representative of the building owner, North Delaware Realty, was present at the meeting. The representative, Tim Lamberto told the Planning Board that they owned eight other properties with wireless equipment on the roof, attested that they required inspections of the equipment annually, and assured the board the units are "the best as they can be" and are "aesthetically reasonable."  

Planning Board chair Betsy Gramkow asked Lamberto, "Are you aware there are a number of Providence Hall residents who are concerned about this?" Planning Board member Laura Margolis added, "There's more than a few people who are concerned," noting that ten residents had signed "no consent forms" and a hundred had signed a petition. She questioned how diligent management had been in making the residents aware. Planning Board member Larry Bowne observed, "If there is a brunt to be borne, it will be borne by residents, and they will not share in the benefits."

Second Ward alderman Tiffany Garriga said she had been working with a group of people to make sure the residents of the building and the surrounding neighborhood knew about the proposal and alleged, "We have been distributing information, and it has been taken away from them." Planning Board member Theresa Joyner reported that tenants were being told by building management, "There is nothing they can do about it; it is a done deal." Garriga chided the applicants for "telling our senior citizens that their voice will not be heard."

Addressing Lamberto, Planning Board member Stephen Steim said, "The residents were not properly informed. You have other buildings with this equipment. You are not new to the process." Lamberto replied, "This is the first I've heard of it, and I'm not too happy about it."

After some sniping between attorneys--Scott Olson, representing Verizon, and Andrew Campanelli, representing twenty property owners along Warren Street--Kitty Mackey asked about alternative sites. At the previous meeting, Planning Board member John Cody had suggested the Harney Tea building at the end of North Second Street and the Verizon building in the 400 block of Union Street. Olson indicated neither was a viable alternative. Mackey then asked, "Why can't you build a tower by the dog park? Why is that so horrendous?" Olson responded, "Can you come to some of my other meetings where there are towers proposed?" Margolis found his response objectionable and, as she has before, expressed the opinion that Olson was being disrespectful and sexist. Olson responded by saying he thought Margolis needed to recuse herself, because she was "clearly biased against me and this application."

Planning Board chair Betsy Gramkow concluded, "It must be clear to you that the residents of Hudson don't want this on Providence Hall. How can you work with us to find another site?" Olson replied by saying that in his experience there is "as much if not more controversy about alternative sites" and reiterated that, in identifying Providence Hall as the site, they had followed Hudson's code. 

After the Planning Board deems an application complete, they have six months to make a decision. The six months is up in April. The board wants to continue the public hearing in April, but doing so requires the agreement of Verizon. Olson told Gramkow he would have to ask Kathy Pomponio, the project manager for Verizon, if they would agree to continuing the public hearing. Pomponio, who was present for the Zoom meeting but left after ninety minutes, criticized the way the meeting was run and urged the board to read the tech memo prepared by Mike Muzzo, the engineer hired by the Planning Board to advise on this project.

Tuesday's Planning Board meeting can be viewed on YouTube. The public hearing and discussion about the Verizon proposal takes up the first hour and fifty minutes.

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