Several dozen Northampton residents attended a special meeting with the Board of Supervisors and American Tower Corporation at evening.
At the meeting—the first that ATC officials have publicly attended—representatives from the large telecommunications company laid out preliminary plans to relocate 12 poles to other locations from neighborhoods that have no above-ground utilities. Already installed poles that are in neighborhoods with above-ground utilities will stay for the time being.
While no deal between the township and ATC has been signed, officials from both sides say they are close to reaching an official agreement.
“We’re here today to try to work this out,” Scott Lewis, director of DAS deployment for ATC, told the gathered crowd.
Northampton Township solicitor Michael Savona said he was hopeful that an agreement with ATC would be voted on at the next Board of Supervisors Meeting on Aug. 22. The township and ATC are working against a court-ordered deadline of Aug. 31.
Before showing the new pole locations to the public Monday evening, the township and ATC have been meeting to discuss how to resolve the issue, which has garnered attention from communities around the country for more than a month.
Lewis said the company has been “trying to come to a resolution that is in everyone’s best interest.”
Under the proposed plan, 11 out of the 12 poles that sat in neighborhoods with underground utilities will be relocated near existing aerial power or cable poles. One 25-foot-tall fiberglass pole will be added to the Woodlake Drive neighborhood, Lewis said.
ATC will be placing the 11 poles across from poles that have other utilities strung from them. The company can not place DAS systems on poles that are used by other utilities due to their rules, Lewis and another ATC representative stated.
The poles, which are among 60 installed across Northampton, will increase cell phone and wireless data service to T-Mobile customers, Lewis said. He added that over time ATC hoped to add other carriers to their towers.
For the most part, residents appeared favorable to the compromise and asked ATC and the township several lingering questions.
An Upper Holland Road couple, who did not wish to be named, asked why the pole had to be relocated from a block away to the front of their property.
Lewis broadly responded by saying they are still willing to talk to residents with concerns, but could not make everyone happy.
Amsterdam Avenue resident Pat Sexton commended both parities for working together to find a resolution, but also aired remaining worries.
A new ordinance that would put restrictions on DAS tower installation is in the process of being drafted. The ordinance is expected to have a provision that force other DAS installers to locate their equipment on existing infrastructure, Board of Supervisors Chairman Frank Rothermel said.
In early May, the tower fight began at Sexton’s home after residents found out about ATC’s plans to place the towers in their yards.
After the meeting at Sexton’s home, the community came together several times to discuss what steps could be taken to stop ATC and stop towers from being installed in neighborhoods without above ground utilities.
The township revoked ATC’s permits two weeks later and took the fight to county and federal court in June. The court date yielded a stay of proceedings so the involved parties can work to negotiate a solution.