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Sidewalks of White Plains

Planning Board Round-Up:

Planning Board Fells Omnipoint Cell Tower at Fenway.

Rejects tower on basis of aesthetics. Expects Omnipoint to sue.

Fenway Golf Club change of leadership no longer supports tower.

By John F. Bailey at the Planning Board


CityLine: March 20, 2001- City Hall

After a year of impassioned, antagonistic opposition from residents of the Highlands, the Omnipoint Cell Tower proposal for a 150-foot monopole on the Fenway Golf Club grounds just below Soundview Avenue was rejected by the White Plains Planning Board Tuesday night in a 25-page decision.

The Planning Board decision detailed numerous objections of neighbors and consultants to the site and took pains to point out that "The Planning Board has a strong, verifiable record of approvals for cellular communication public untilities, including monopoles in residential zoning districts." It cited a 125-foot monopole at Old Road to Kensico operating since 1995, and a 60-foot monopole at 1311 North Street, operating since 1998.

The decision reports that the Omnipoint application "does not comply with the stated purposes of the Zoning protect the character and the social and economic stability, and to encourage the orderly and beneficial development of the City and all of its neighborhoods," as follows:

"The Board finds that the proposed monopole would have a negative impact on the neighborhood due to the aesthetics of the antenna. The attempt to 'stealth' a 150-foot tall monopole in an area with predominantly deciduous (shedding leaves annually) trees that are significantly shorter is futile. The monopole will be very pronounced and totally out of character with its surrounding environment. Another consideration is the financial repercussions to Congregation Kol Ami (on Soundview Avenue, overlooking the tower), which has submitted documentation that it could suffer losses of $439,550.00, which represents 16.2% of the Temple's annual budget."

The decision countered Omnipoint attempts to "stealth" the monopole as follows:

"Although the Board appreciates the Applicant's willingness to 'stealth' the monopole to represent a pine tree, at 150 feet tall, the monopole would be substantially taller (50 feet) than any surrounding tree or other landscape feature, and would not blend into the landscape at all."

The Board found that the Omnipoint tower did not "meet the visual impact standard established by its previous approvals," and that Omnipoint "never attempted to substantially revise the plans."

The Planning Board was particularly critical of Omnipoint failure to notify the Board of two "crane tests" and the dates they were to be conducted so that the Planning Board could see the crane effects in person. They found Omnipoint "remiss" in this matter.

In conclusion, the Board found "the Appplicant was not responsive to its repeated requests to find alternative means of achieving its coverage objectives thorugh a greater number of antenna installations at lower heights, and further finds that the Applicant was insistent on persisting with its original proposal despite good faith efforts on behalf of the Board to suggest alternate sites for a monopole in a range of heights in residential districts, and alternate means to obtain complete coverage."

In other Planning Board matters,

The Board heard a site plan for a five family dwelling at 115 North Kensico Avenue, and referred it out to other Boards for comment.

The Board approved a Nextel Communications cellular antenna on the 1131 North Street location.

The Board made suggestions for landscaping on the 300 Church Street multi-family dwelling.

The Board approved a canopy for J & S Auto at 430 Mamaroneck Avenue, after the applicant scaled back the size and height of its canopy and agreed to put in a mobile planter to discourage parking on the sidewalk adjacent to the CVS lot at the site.

The Board reviewed a presentation of Congregation Kol Ami for Phase I of their proposed temple expansion on 252 Soundview Avenue. Phase l will add a 3,300 square foot addition to the Temple entrance, and move the entrance road to the Temple 30 feet North on Soundview Avenue. Phase II of the Temple construction will add 4,400 square feet in new single story school rooms at the rear of the temple, but is not scheduled to begin for two years. Temple President Kenneth Simon said the number of classrooms had not been decided.

The Board also heard and approved the Planning Department's proposed rezoning of the Business/Residential 1 and Business/Residential 2 district along Mamaroneck Avenue, paving the way for eventual approval by the Common Council of this rezoning. The rezoning, if approved by the Council will allow The Jefferson at White Plains apartment complex to be built at the 300 Mamaroneck Avenue site. Planning Board members mainly expressed skepticism about providing adequate parking if the retail properties chose to build residential units over their stores. The ordinance changes allow an extra 5 feet in height in the retail street level units along Mamaroneck Avenue, encouraging use as restaurants in trade for residential units with parking for 1 and 1/3 spaces.

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