6 cell towers get OK

BY ROBERT L. BAKER

The Susquehanna County Planning Commission granted preliminary approval last Wednesday night (Oct. 31) for the construction of six new cell towers across the county.

In a meeting that was postponed a day on account of an approaching weather system, the planning body granted the go-ahead for the towers proposed by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Phone Company (known as NEP Cellcorp, Inc.) in Apolacon, Auburn, Brooklyn, Jessup, Middletown and Rush townships.

The proposed Garza tower just off Rt. 858 in Apolacon, the Grosvenor tower just off SR2011 in Brooklyn and the Knipe tower off C417 a mile south of Lawton in Rush were conditionally approved pending driveway permits and/or township reporting forms.

The proposed Mokris tower west of Rt. 267 in Auburn Center, the Rag Apple LLC tower off of SR 3029 in Jessup and the Fiondi tower off Rt. 547 a mile south of Middletown Center would all be using existing roads to reach the location of the towers.

As none of the developments was over 0.63 acres, no erosion and sediment control plans were required by the conservation district.

After one of the cell tower plans was discussed, commission member John Butler said, “This gentleman wrote to me how he might possibly bring me cell phone service, so I’m for it,” he smiled.

All passed unanimously.

Also considered and approved were a waiver of driveway permit for a minor subdivision in Lenox Township by Dorothy Gates, as well as conditional approval of a commercial development of Rain for Rent Inc. of Gibson Township.

The latter included the adding of a shop, warehouse building and expanded parking area on Rain for Rent’s 13.1 leased acres so it could continue its activity indoors during the winter months rather than outdoors, engineer Todd Schmidt said.

He noted that water container tanks are being cleaned at the facility.

“What’s in the containers?” county resident Vera Scroggins asked.

“I can’t answer that,” Schmidt said, “because I don’t know.”

Gibson resident Toni Sinkiewitz asked the planning body, “How can you approve a land development if you can’t know what’s being done?”

County planner Bob Templeton explained the body was responsible for subdivisions and land developments, but did not regulate use.

“If you want to control the activity at a site, you have to contact the township where it’s located,” he said.

But Templeton also noted that Gibson chose to opt out of participation in a council of governments, and had no zoning regulating use.

“Then who has responsibility down the line?” Sinkiewitz asked.

“I’m assuming DEP would know that,” Templeton said, adding that “The planning commission has tried to get municipalities to adopt zoning.”

Brett Jennings, who serves on Great Bend Borough Council and was in the audience Wednesday, said that if anyone wanted to know what was in those water containers and how they were cleaned should go to the archives of the TV series, “Dirty Jobs.”

“It’s an eye-opener,” he said.

The subject changed to regulation of noise and smells at compressor stations.

Springville homeowner Paul Karpich said that he was monitoring noise levels around the Lathrop Compressor station- which was originally built off Rt. 29 by Cabot, but presently owned by Williams.

Planning Commission Chair Patrick Ahearn said that to familiarize themselves with the issues, four representatives of the commission went to the Zick compressor station in Lenox Township and three went to the Lathrop Station in Springville Township.

“We went to the nearest property line and couldn’t hear the plant at all,” Ahearn said. “I could hear a dog barking and the wind blowing.”

Templeton noted that by law there was nothing regulating the noise level at Lathrop because the county’s noise ordinance was passed after it was constructed.

Still the planning commission wanted to understand the issues so it could get ahead of future potential problems.

“There are no birds singing from where I live,” Gerry Donatucci, who lives on Fitch Hill Road, about 2500 feet behind the Lathrop station, said.

“I never said anything about birds,” Ahearn said. “Those are your words.”

Karpich said from his home he has decibel readings in the 50-70 range. “Over at Gerry’s it goes up to 80 decibels.”

Karpich acknowledged he had conversations with Williams which now owns the station and partially rebuilt it last year after a fire.

Williams spokesman Helen Humphreys was on hand at the meeting, and said that when Lathrop was rebuilt, “steps were taken to incorporate minimizing sound.”

“We recognize that it did not have the complete effect we were hopeful it would,” Humphreys said. “And even though we aren’t legally obligated, we strive to find a solution, and continue to do so.”

Karpich’s neighbor Donatucci said that really wasn’t good enough.

“I hear this noise 24 hours a day. I can’t open a window, cause the noise is there plus the smell,” he said. “I just want something done. We’re not hear to work against you.”

Scroggins said, “So, with all this noise behind and now odors, you still decided to approve the Shields Compressor Station? Does it have better controls?”

Ahearn said he was not an engineer, but noted Williams complied with all DEP requirements.

“With the new facilities, we’re taking steps to control noise,” he added.

Scroggins asked if the decibel readings taken after Shields starts up are too loud, “How will you consider that?”

“We won’t give it final approval,” he said.

Jennings said that with Act 13 monies flowing to the counties, he noted that one of the “allowable uses” was local and regional planning initiatives, and he hoped the planning body would give thought to the aggregated effect of having so many compressor stations in a county that rarely supported them just five years ago.

In a workshop session preceding the planning body’s regular meeting Wednesday, there was some discussion about recreational vehicles parked on lands that are not approved as campgrounds, particularly in New Milford Borough.

A suggestion was that the New Milford Police Department maybe needed to handle that.

Still, the planners recognized further discussion was needed, and the problem was cropping up elsewhere in the county.

Also, in the workshop, Schmidt said he had a client who was proposing building a Railway Restaurant at the intersection of Franklin and Pine streets in Hallstead Borough.

Although Schmidt said he was not making a formal submission, he wanted to get a sense of the body about possibly getting a waiver of a 15-foot setback for a restaurant that would have 22 parking spaces.

Ahearn said, “Up front, I’m going to tell you, ‘No.’”

Butler said he thought the body might be more willing to setting a variance on parking spaces.