Monopoles, micro-cell towers, stealth technology and increasing applications for wireless antennae recently prompted the Town of Tonawanda to put a moratorium on new permits while it updates the town code.
The Town of Tonawanda Planning Board on Wednesday discussed some of the new technology the town needs to address in its code as it prepares for future technologies, such as self-driving cars.
Planning Board members agreed they'd like to see an end to the old days of nearly 200-foot lattice towers, in favor of monopoles and co-location, as well as stealth technology that hides technology in street lights and utility poles. Another technology, micro-cell towers no larger than a bucket could also be acceptable in the proposed law if they are used unobtrusively, such as hidden in a chimney, on top of a commercial building or in a cupola, agreed board members.
Stealth technology completely hides antennae in a utility pole or street light, which the Planning Board favored if something like a street light fits into the character of a residential community.
"This is very complicated," said Planning Board Chairman Kenneth Swanekamp. The board learned the town's moratorium on cell towers is permitted to continue 180 days while the board considers changing its codes.
The Planning Board will continue to discuss proposed amendments presented by Wendel Engineering at the board's May 3 meeting.
The proposed changes may restrict new cell towers to no higher than 175 feet and would ban large towers in residential areas unless an applicant can prove there are no other options.
After the Planning Board finalizes proposed code changes, the amendments will be subject to a public hearing and adoption by the Town Board.
Planning Board members agreed that co-location of new antennae on existing poles was ideal, as well as stealth technology. The proposed plan is to make code rules for new towers restrictive to encourage these options, rather than building new towers.
Councilman John Bargnesi Jr. said they want to avoid over-saturation of towers in certain areas, especially those areas that border Amherst. He said restrictions by the Town of Amherst have pushed utilities seeking towers into bordering areas in the Town of Tonawanda.
In addition, the Planning Board also discussed proposed changes in the codes regulating wind energy conversion. The proposed changes would ban large industrial wind energy towers, which are used on wind farms to generate power.
Swanekamp said they want to make sure that there's no place in the town where an applicant could place industrial generation capacity wind turbine, because these turbines could be subject to takeover by the state in an Article 10 action. Article 10 allows the state to pursue a wind power farm without input from the local community, which is what happened in the Town of Somerset and in Lackawanna, said Swanekamp.
In the proposed law, three types of wind towers would be allowed – noncommercial, commercial and residential. These wind towers could generate electrical power for use on-site and allow operators to sell back small amounts of excess power to the grid.
The wind tower proposals also would be subject to a public hearing and Town Board approval.
The first and only wind turbines the town has considered were at Triad Recycling and Energy on River Road, which completed its first turbine in December and was approved for a second, 159-foot turbine on Wednesday night. These turbines were described as "no larger than a windmill" by Swanekamp and are located in an industrial zone. The 100-kilowatt turbines are used for generating power for the business.