The Town Board will consider a settlement in the Verizon court case to accept 68 Stone Hill Road as the site for a wireless communications facility. Before the Town Board may accept the proposed solution as a settlement, a review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and declaration of no significant environmental impact is required.
Timeline and Materials
On Tuesday 4/26, the Town Board will take the initial step in the SEQRA process and declare its intent to act as Lead Agency with respect to the proposed approval. The following documents will be circulated to involved and interested agencies to determine if any of involved agencies object to the Town Board acting as Lead Agency for the purposes of the action being considered. These include:
- The Full Environmental Assessment Form-Part 1, with supporting documents prepared by Verizon
- Proposed Plans submitted by Verizon, last revised on April 11, 2022, for the Wireless Facility being considered
- A Notice of Intent to Act as Lead Agency.
After providing the above to potential interested agencies, the Town Board is required to wait 30 days before scheduling a hearing with respect to the approval of the Lead Agency status and before making a determination with respect to the underlying action. While a public hearing is not mandated under SEQRA, the Town Board intends to schedule a public hearing on this matter to give the public an opportunity to offer comments to assist the Town Board in rendering its determination of environmental significance. This public hearing will be the last Tuesday in May – May 31, 2022.
After the Planning Board rejected Verizon’s applications at Stone Hill and Hickory Lane and argued that tower sites in and around Indian Hill Park would be more effective and less intrusive, Verizon rejected the Town’s proposed alternatives and sued in Federal Court to try to get a judgement allowing them to construct a wireless facility at either the Hickory Lane or Stone Hill Road sites. The Federal Telecommunications Act gives municipalities very little leeway when it comes to rejecting cell tower applications, and the outcome of protracted and expensive litigation is uncertain. The Town Board has therefore agreed to consider this settlement. While the Planning Board rejected the Stone Hill Road application, the Town Board is willing to consider that with additional landscaping and further analysis of the original plan, a facility on Stone Hill Road will fill a gap in coverage and will be less intrusive than a cell tower at 91 Hickory Lane.
It seems pertinent to note that a recent survey shows that a majority of Bedford residents want to see improved cell service in the town. This is a matter of public and personal safety as well as convenience. But while the need for better cell service is an easy call, the specific locations of towers are not: the appropriate sites for wireless facilities in the Town to remedy the acknowledged gaps in coverage have been contemplated, reviewed, and debated for over four years. The Town’s goal is always to seek out the least intrusive, least environmentally impactful sites possible for these facilities, even while we acknowledge the ever-growing importance of wireless communications in all our lives. Based on the Town’s experiences over the last four years, it is evident that there is no one location that would be acceptable to all Town residents and the wireless providers that will resolve the current situation. As a result, the Town Board is moving forward with the settlement process to begin addressing this important issue.
Click here for the Memo from Town Attorney regarding the SEQRA Review of the Verizon Settlement.