Permits to be Revoked; Cell Tower Fight Rages On
The township held a meeting Tuesday evening at Richboro Middle School.
During a special Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday evening at Richboro Middle School, Northampton Township officials announced they will meet Wednesday morning to find a justifiable cause to revoke the permit that allows American Tower Corporation to install pole-based distributed antenna systems and nearly 40 miles of fiber optic cables across the township. Revoking the permits will effectively cause ATC crews to stop working in the township.
The measure, which the board unanimously approved, was first introduced by current supervisor and former chairman George Komelasky. Aside from revoking the permits, it also lets township officials pursue “any other appropriate legal action. ” That action could include a moratorium on work, Township Solicitor Michael Savona said at the meeting.
When the measure was approved, most of the more than 150 people who filled the middle school’s auditorium broke into applause and cheers.
However, the approval of Tuesday evening’s measure could possibly make the township liable for millions if ATC sues them for revoking the permits and Northampton loses, Savona told Frank Rothermel, chairman of the board. Savona predicted, ATC will likely claim they lost a substantial amount of money due to fact the permits were revoked.
The company could also claim pulling the permits is in contempt of the January ruling by Judge Wallace Bateman, Savona added. In the ruling, Bateman said ATC was allowed to work in Northampton because they received a certificate of approval from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and were operating within the bounds of federal law.
The township will be working with a Pittsburgh-based telecommunications lawyer, Daniel Cohen, on the issue.
Supervisor Eileen Silver said she wanted the permits pulled until the issue with the towers could be solved.
“I want something done now,” Silver said at the meeting just minutes before Komelasky proposed the measure that would pull the permits.
Visibly angry residents took the board to task on why they weren’t given more of a heads-up about the poles when they were first proposed and the township’s legal fight with ATC.
During a public comment portion of the meeting, one resident displayed two glossy brochures from the township and its waste hauler that explained the new single-stream recycling process and the reduction in trash pick-up. The resident asked why something like that could not have been sent to residents to explain the pole situation.
Rothermel promised the township would keep residents informed on the tower issue using the township website.
State Representative Scott Petri told the crowd that he was working to see what could be done in the future to stop this issue from occurring again in Northampton.
“Let’s not let this happen again,” the representative said.
ATC, who was invited but did not sent a representative to the meeting, appears to not “give a darn,” according to Petri. He added that companies like ATC must not care about the bad publicity.
Since a Patch article first brought the story to light at the end of April, residents have rallied together and collected more than 2,000 petition signatures asking ATC to stop installing the poles, Holland resident Ed Bendzlowicz told the board. He added that the re-election of board members hinged on the handling of the tower issue.
“Remember November,” Bendzlowicz said as he finished his comments to the board.