By TIM ROWLAND
The Adirondack Park Agency gave its conditional blessing last week to a 95-foot cellphone tower that will provide service to AT&T customers in and around Elizabethtown.
The tower will be built on a ridge to the southeast of the hamlet, off of Lincoln Pond Road, and disguised as an evergreen — an Eastern white pine, to be specific. That’s a meaningful point, because regulations require that towers in search of anonymity can’t be disguised as just any tree, but must match the surrounding forest.
It took the applicant, Vertical Bridge Holdings, multiple attempts to get the look right. Trees resembling lollipops and bottle brushes were rejected in favor of a more natural look that would meld into the existing vegetation, said the APA’s Ariel Lynch. “It’s not something out of scale like a Frankenpine,” Lynch said.
AT&T is currently engaged in a park-wide initiative to improve cell coverage. Elizabethtown has scant AT&T service now, according to company maps, but the new tower will serve the hamlet and areas up to three miles or so away from the town.
Of local concern was that the tower would be an unwelcome intrusion on the view from the nearby Blueberry Hill Trails network to the west. But computer simulations of the tower from a Blueberry Hill overlook indicate it will not be an eyesore. “I don’t think it would be visible (from the lookout) but even if it were I don’t think it would be discernible because of the trees,” Lynch said.
Cellphone towers are far less obvious — and far less controversial — than they used to be because companies have gotten better at hiding them.
Today, they are often situated below ridgelines where the eye does not easily pick them out, or disguised as trees with a more believable profile. “They’ve certainly built enough of them at this point that I think they’ve figured out what’s working,” Lynch said.
And with computer simulation, regulators and the public can have an accurate idea of what the tower will look like from multiple vantage points. Those simulations convinced the board.
“This is about as good as it can be for a 95-foot tower,” APA board member John Ernst said.