The issue currently being negotiated between the Town and Verizon has been going on for 4 1/2 years. As many of us watched at Planning Board meetings and then on Zoom, the Planning Board, staff, and attorneys literally spent hundreds of hours, creating thousands of pages of records, deliberating potential outcomes with Verizon, the Town’s Wireless Committee, consultants, and various constituents to find a location for a wireless facility.

Verizon identified Hickory and Stone Hill as the most desirable locations to cover gaps in those areas due to topography and their coverage potential. Several other locations were proposed and reviewed as well. All locations were declined either by the Planning Board or Verizon.

Federal law makes it close to impossible for towns to refuse to site facilities when a gap in coverage has been established and gives towns only a sliver of authority to influence the outcome of these applications. While proposals for one-tower solutions or small cells were discussed, these are not realistic given our topography and technology.

Finally, “shot clock” ran out, giving Verizon the opportunity under federal law to sue the Town to get the court to override the Planning Board and force one of its applications to be accepted in Bedford.

The lawsuit, filed in 2021, has been underway, taking a great deal of time and attention. The legal expenses and consultant fees are mounting, and the likelihood of success is increasingly uncertain. Finally, we had to ask ourselves, how much taxpayer money are we willing to spend to risk losing a lawsuit and lose control of what is built?

In addition to the incremental legal expenses and necessary time commitments from Town personnel and attorneys, negotiating now gives the Town the opportunity to provide input into the look of the pole, fencing, landscaping, and maintenance. Also, the Planning Board has determined that of the two locations, the pole at Stone Hill would be less intrusive and not affect the vista of the Town’s ridge line. These two issues suggest a negotiated settlement with Verizon on Stone Hill site is in the Town’s best interest.

Of course, a more detailed review of the proposed plan is underway and if the Town Board finds that the construction of a pole in this location has a significant environmental impact or is not safe, we will not agree to the settlement.

However, if the proposal passes review, the opportunity to settle this long, protracted and expensive lawsuit with Verizon will enable us to move forward with a master plan to fill the gaps in coverage in ways that we feel will be less intrusive than what the cell companies might decide independently.

In summary, due to the high cost of litigation, the likelihood of a negative outcome, the need to fill gaps in coverage, and the aim to maintain some control, the Town Board has declared its intention under the State Environmental Quality Review Act to be lead agency in a process of reviewing a settlement with Verizon to build a wireless facility at 68 Stone Hill Road. The hearing will be held on May 31 starting at 6pm.

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