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April 20, 2014
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Two cell towers proposed for Damascus


Two cell towers have been proposed that would be located in Damascus Township, but the names for the sites are from New York State locations. One, which would be located on Jurgensen Road, is called the Callicoon site, and another, which would be located in Milanville, is called the Narrowsburg site.

Representatives from Verizon Wireless presented the proposed cell towers to the Damascus Township Planning Commission officials on August 8, and said the towers would be constructed primarily to provide broadband service.

The 200-foot towers would be located within the Delaware River Corridor and thus received attention from the Upper Delaware Council, which sent a letter to a consultant involved with the project.

The letter said, “The Upper Delaware, in recognition of its numerous values including its scenic qualities, was designated as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1978. The Committee recognizes the need and demand for cellular service in the region and encourages communications towers where appropriate. However, there is concern that the proposed towers could have potentially negative impacts on the viewshed and scenic qualities that helped achieve this national recognition.”

The letter then asked for balloon tests, which according to literature distributed to residents at the meeting, appear to have been performed. The tower proposed for the northern location would be just downriver of the hamlet of Callicoon, and while it would not be visible from the river, it would be visible from Route 97, the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway.

Some residents are concerned about possible negative health
impacts from the cell towers. There have been reports that cell phone towers are linked to some forms of cancer, but the American Cancer Society says that’s probably not true.
On its website the society says, “Public exposure to radio waves from cell phone tower antennas is slight for several reasons. The power levels are relatively low, the antennas are mounted high above ground level, and the signals are transmitted intermittently, rather than constantly.

“At ground level near typical cellular base stations, the amount
of radio frequency energy is thousands of times less than the limits for safe exposure set by the U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and other regulatory authorities. It is very unlikely that a person could be exposed to RF levels in excess of these limits just by being near a cell phone tower.”

Some opposition to cell towers is due to the belief that they lower property values of nearby homes. The Federal Communications Act of 1996 says concerns about property values are sufficient for a regulatory entity such as a planning board to deny a permit for a tower, but health concerns are not. A public hearing will be held but has not yet been scheduled.