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Saturday, February 10, 2018

The rest of the story of a tower for Sherrillbrook Park...NOT!

As I was saying, the town board was asked to approve a resolution at the December 13, 2017 town board meeting to allow the town supervisor to sign a lease option with Homeland Towers, LLC to site a 190 foot tower in Sherrillbrook Park. They approved and had to approve again at the January 3, 2018 town board meeting because of a date issue.

Besides the date misstep, it was strange that a lease of town property would be considered "without a broker" according to the legal notice placed in the December 21, 2017 and January 10, 2018 Observer Dispatch.

It was also curious that the lease payment would only be $1,400. Other leases of town properties appeared to be in the $2,000 range. Since Verizon had already run into difficulties getting a land lease twice, once in the Merritt Place area and once at the Myles Elementary School, it would seem they might not be in a good position to low-ball this lease. At any rate, it's all immaterial now.

The documents received about 2 days before the grant could be signed were:
The documents I received were insufficient to meet state parks regulations; however, they told a story...a story of a plan to locate a tower in the back portion of Sherrillbrook that was at least a year in the planning behind closed doors.

I also noticed that while Homeland Towers provided the resolution for adoption of the lease option, the document they provided which was used in the legal notice was not dated. Who put the incorrect date in the legal notice prior to publishing?

The notice that appeared in the paper had a November 15, 2017 date. That date could have allowed the lease/option to be signed by Tyksinski, the previous supervisor, prior to the end of the permissive referendum period. After a year or more in the planning behind closed doors and Tyksinski's reign coming to an end, was he trying to push this lease/option through for some reason? But alas, someone was well aware of the law...the notice was declared null and void and another resolution had to be adopted on January 3, 2018 with Supervisor Miscione the authorized signatory.

At any rate, I submitted a FOIL request because three things that the gentleman from Homeland Towers said didn't make any sense. He said:
• the cell tower was going to be near the water tank
• the area of the park where it would be sited was zoned Low Density Residential
• he didn’t think it would require park alienation
Wrong on all counts,sir! The proposed 190 foot cell tower would definitely require alienation just like the water tower which is situated on park land that is currently zoned LDR did in 1998...ALL, non-park uses require alienation legislation when state and/or federal funds are used for park purposes. The proposed site may be zoned as LDR (low density residential) on town zoning maps for now, but it won't be for long.

The disappointing part is that apparently not one person involved in this "plan" thought enough to wonder why a park would be zoned LDR which our code defines as a "purely single-family neighborhood". How sad that no one involved did their due diligence regarding siting a tower in Sherrillbrook Park.

“NY State Parks outlines a 10-step process when officials are considering a change in the use of parkland or recreational areas:

1. Determine whether the proposed action is an alienation of parkland.
2. Explore other options to avoid using parkland.
3. Involve the public.
4. Notify State Parks.
5. Determine if State or federal funding has been allocated to the park.
6. Complete the Parkland Alienation Municipal Information Form.
7. Contact the local State legislative sponsor.
8. Draft legislation with the help of the legislative sponsor and State Parks Counsel’s Office.
9. Conduct a review pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
10. Pass a Municipal Home Rule Request.
I FOILed any information they had that would prove any of these steps had been taken. They apparently had NOTHING!

I addressed the town board at the February 7, 2018 town board meeting and summarized the deficiencies in the handling of this plan along with information regarding the improper zoning of the back end of Sherrillbrook Park.

I also presented two (2) maps; one showing that the park was indeed cut in half by two different zones and one showing that the water tower and trails are actually also shown in what is zoned as Low Density Residential. Rather than continue writing, here is a copy of my findings along with the maps for anyone that is interested.

Bottom line...the town board did agree to change the zoning to park through adoption of a local law and the lease/option will not be signed by the town supervisor, Paul Miscione.

The video of the February 7th town board meeting will be online in a day or two. In the meantime here are some of the items presented by Supervisor Miscione at the meeting:
  • declare some emergency expenditures
  • appraisal for property a 6 Henderson St.
  • Highway budget transfer
  • Senior Center budget transfer
  • Refunding & restructuring of 2009 bonds
  • Discuss Parks Committee
  • approve computer policy
  • Library board appointment
  • NH Chamber of Commerce (sub-lease)
  • Town outside village drainage districts to be created


Anonymous said...

Cathy, Great final paragraph of your findings! This is NOT open government and NOT what taxpayers expect from those we have elected to represent us.
And, Cathy, thank you for all of your time and effort to keep us informed. How sad that we need a ‘watchdog’ to keep an eye on our town government. To quote an old friend: “It just gets ‘worser’ and ‘worser:’ Too bad the tower story is not as funny as my friend’s word creation!

New Hartford, NY Online said...

So far the new administration is being transparent and welcomes citizen input, but I fear the lack of experience in managing town government and his eagerness to go "full steam ahead" may become problematic. I hope I am wrong.

Anonymous said...

Lets give the guy a chance people! And if anyone thinks they're more "experienced" or do a better job then by all means run for office yourself.

Anonymous said...

So accordingly the water tower needed all the same approvals? How come the mapping was never updated to reflect the zoning change?

New Hartford, NY Online said...

Anon #3,

Good question. You have to wonder who has been minding the store!