NEWS

Farmington officials wary of ‘stealth’ flagpole proposal

Billie Owens

David Degear is all for apple pie and Mother’s Day and saluting “Old Glory.” But as chairman of the Farmington, N.Y., Planning Board, he has qualms about putting a fake 90-foot flagpole smack dab in the visual center of the town’s busiest intersection.

Clearwire U.S. proposed the idea at Wednesday night’s Planning Board meeting. It needs to erect a radio-signal transmission tower to provide customers with high-speed broadband Internet service using wireless network technology.

The tower must be located where it would be least subject to static interference. After looking at several places, Clearwire leased a portion of motel property at 6037 Route 96 with the intention of erecting the tower.

That location is highly visible at the “four corners” — the juncture of routes 332 and 96 — where traffic is the greatest and a lot of development is planned.

When the company’s proposal first came before the Planning Board a couple months ago, the tower proposed was a white, 90-foot “monopole” with no redeeming aesthetic qualities, according to town officials. While the monotower-as-flagpole concept sounds better, it also comes with more responsibilities.

A municipal flagpole must be lit at night and maintained, with the flag lowered, raised and put at half-staff when need be. That’s why the town of Henrietta, N.Y., nixed the Clearwire flagpole plan and stuck with an unadorned gargantuan tower.

Farmington planners also expressed concerns about the project’s setback from the roadway and the absence of details for camouflaging it.

The Ontario County Planning Board has already voted against the monopole, citing safety concerns and proximity to the roadway. The county is working to establish a wireless network around the county, and the tower is considered an intermunicipal requirement for it.

In order to approve the newly offered flagpole/monopole, Farmington would have to muster a “super majority” vote in favor of the proposal to override the county’s decision.

The Farmington board made it clear that although Clearwire has reached out to adjacent property owners to negotiate another static-free location, it needs to keep working on the project.

Clearwire representative Jeff Davis said he contacted DiPacific’s Restaurant and others with no response.

“We can’t look at every possible site within a half mile. That’s not feasible,” Davis told the board. “We can play that game forever, and it doesn’t work.”

Davis also said the flagpole design will cost the company twice as much to build. He said the landscaping and camouflage details have been addressed.

“I don’t want to wallow,” Davis said.

But the board voted unanimously to table the decision until the county can review the new stealth design, too. It will be brought back for consideration Feb. 20.

“You should have picked up on the idea that we want this hidden as much as possible,” Ron Brand, Farmington director of planning, told Davis. “It behooves you not to think we’re playing a stalling game. We need solid reasons to overturn the county, and I’ve not heard them.”

Contact Daily Messenger writer Billie Owens at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 320, or at bowens@mpnewspapers.com