Two more Verizon towers move ahead at APA — RAY BROOK -- Two more Verizon Wireless towers for the Northway were approved Thursday by the Adirondack Park Agency Regulatory Affairs Committee. They are expected to get final board approval today. Numbers two and three of 13 new Verizon Northway corridor cell-phone towers are proposed for construction on private land in Lake George and Lewis. OVERALL PLAN Moving toward a more comprehensive review, APA Environmental Planner George "Skip" Outcalt presented a map of the entire proposed new Verizon Northway system. Ten towers are planned for the dark zone between North Hudson and the Town of Chesterfield, an area of little or no cell service. The first, behind Gokey's Trading Post at exit 29, has been approved. The others are sited near Holiday Pond, Underwood, Ashcroft Pond, Lincoln Pond, Leila Pond, Meadowmount, Boyle Road, Deerhead and McGuire Brook. The entire plan also incorporates five existing towers to deliver cell-phone coverage to Interstate 87 from Lake George to Keeseville. In the coming year, Verizon also will propose towers on the Route 73 corridor in Keene and Keene Valley and on the Route 86/30 corridor at Paul Smiths and in Duane, according to the map. WHY ONE BY ONE? The overview raised discussion among APA commissioners, who questioned the one-by-one approval process. Commissioner Dick Booth, an attorney and professor at Cornell University, wondered, "Why aren't we asking five years, 10 years down the road?" Several environmental groups, including the Adirondack Council, are pushing for a more strategic approach to cell-tower planning in the Adirondack Park. In a letter submitted to APA Tuesday, the council urged "a comprehensive plan that ensures co-location opportunities" as a "proactive step to avoid the cumulative impacts of unnecessary tower construction." The Adirondack Council does support the new Lake George and Lewis towers as they "appear to present no undue adverse impacts." Commissioners began to explore the larger question of tower proliferation. "This is one provider," Booth said. "To approach this narrowly on a tower-by-tower basis, seems to me, we might not be asking the right questions." Commissioner Leilani Ulrich, chairwoman of the Regulatory Affairs Committee, suggested a shift in thinking from cell-tower review to comprehensive cell service. Mark Sengenberger, interim APA executive director, said the co-location requirement in the Towers Policy has kept the number of new towers low. "There are maybe eight new towers but a lot of co-location," he said, indicating statewide wireless network plans will move toward the park in the next year or two. Commissioner Richard Hoffman, representing the Department of State, said APA would do well to take a leadership role in guiding cell-service planning. "To be fair, they (cell companies) want to know what the rules of the game are, too." Any comprehensive plan should be tied to economic development, Hoffman added. "Clearly, we have to involve the private sector in all of this." SITES PINPOINTED Commissioner Fred Monroe, representing the Local Government Review Board, pointed out that towns and villages have created an inventory of existing tall structures in hamlet areas. "We should help (towns) develop a plan for where they (towers) should and can go," Monroe said. The discussion dissolved as two new towers were presented individually for review, each sited to fit a unique landscape. Both towers are 89 feet tall, including a 10-foot lightning rod. They are monopoles with a 12-panel array on top that resembles a very large bottle brush. The Lewis tower, designed to go behind Meadowmount School of Music on a lower section of Little Mount Discovery, will be "generally backdropped" by surrounding trees and slightly visible poking through the top of the trees. Both towers were designed to fit the average tree height. APA received no adverse comments on either tower proposal.