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Meeting Minutes And Agendas

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Planning Commission
9/5/2018 7:30 PM

The regular meeting of the Buckingham Township Planning Commission was held September 5, 2018 in the Township Building, 4613 Hughesian Drive, Buckingham, Pennsylvania.


Present:           Andrea Mehling                     Chairperson

                        Patrick Fowles                        Vice Chairperson

                        Rebecca Fink                          Member

                        Dr. Marc Sandberg                 Member

                        Louis Spadafora                     Member

                        John Ives                                 Bucks County Planning Commission

                        Dan Gray                                Township Engineer


Not Present:    Erling Salvesen, Jr.                 Member

                       Glenn Thomson                      Member


Mrs. Mehling called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.


Consideration of approving Draft Planning Commission Minutes of the July 17, 2018 meeting.

Mrs. Mehling made a motion, seconded by Mr. Spadafora to approve, as most recently presented, the draft Planning Commission Minutes of the July 17, 2018 Meeting. The motion carried unanimously.


Consideration of recommending Approval of the “FDH Velocitel, Inc. / AT&T Mobility” Conditional Use Application, Township File CU 2017-01, TMP# 06-037-040 (End of Forest Hill Drive – Water Tank Site), Zoned Communication Overlay District 1. The initial 60-day review period expires October 16, 2018.

Mr. Chris Shubert, Riley Riper Hollin & Colagreco, P.C., Mr. Bill Leonard, Velocitel – Site Acquisition Specialist, Mr. Brock Riffel, RF Services Inc. – Radio Frequency Engineer, and Mr. Richard Peterman, PE, Destek Engineering, LLC, were present to discuss the Conditional Use application submitted by “FDH Velocitel, Inc. d/b/a AT&T Mobility”.


Mr. Schubert distributed a “Schedule of Exhibits” for reference.


Mr. Schubert described the project as a site proposed off the cul-de-sac of Forest Hill Drive (within the Buckingham Forest subdivision) for the colocation of 9 panel antennas to be installed on the side of the existing township owned water tank. He said the tank with the superstructure is 95’ above the ground, with antennas proposed to be attached to the perimeter of the tank with pole extensions mounted onto the tank, and antennas to extend above the tank by 3-5’ to an overall height of approximately 98’. Mr. Schubert said the site is 21-22 acres in size, is owned by Buckingham Township, and is wooded with tall mature trees except for the section containing the tank. Mr. Schubert said this site will help to provide coverage in the Buckingham Valley between Buckingham Mountain and towards Doylestown Township.


Mr. Schubert said this property is located in the COD1 Zoning District, which is an overlay district permitting the colocation of communication antennas onto existing structures, as permitted by conditional use.


Mr. Schubert explained this application was submitted to Buckingham Township in 2017 and was held pending license agreement negotiations with the township, which has now taken place.


Mr. Schubert briefly described the exhibits, with conversation specifically on the following exhibits:


A-7 TowAIR Report of FAA Clearance. Mr. Schubert said the facility complies with FAA per lighting, and does not need to be lit due to the relatively low height. He said the only lighting involved would be a 100-watt bulb placed on either side of the compound on a timer motion sensor switch for the technicians use within the fenced compound.  Dr. Sandberg questioned why motion sensor, why not a switch. Mr. Riffel said that could be considered. Mr. Peterman said the lights will be angled down from a 7’ height, and directed away from any residences. Mr. Michael Ziskind, Forest Hill Drive, said the existing lights at the pump house light up his daughter’s bedroom.


A-9 RF map showing existing coverage and need without proposed site. Mr. Schubert said this exhibit shows a need for this use by showing areas in white with a lack of reliable coverage, and green is coverage; with the proposed facility towards the center surrounded by a lot of white area.


A-10 RF map showing predicted overage with proposed site on-air. Mr. Schubert explained this exhibit shows the coverage that will be provided from this new location, adding it fills in much of the valley currently lacking in coverage, including along York and Swamp Roads. He said one issue remaining is Edison Furlong Road, and AT&T will work with Doylestown Township to resolve that area for effective coverage.


A-11 Construction Plans of proposed facility prepared by Velocitel, LLC, last revised August 15, 2018. Mr. Schubert said this exhibit depicts the plan being proposed, including a bird’s eye view of the tanks in relation to the cul-de-sac on Forest Hill Drive. He said the antennas are located on the northern tank (Tank #2) and equipment is to the side behind the existing pump station on the eastern side. Mr. Schubert explained the elevation view shows 9 proposed antennas on the side of the tank, located just above the catwalk atop the tank, extending to tips of antennas 98’, with the superstructure on the tank 94-95’. He added that the equipment will be fenced per ordinance with 8’ chain length and 1’ barbed wire atop for added security.


A-12 Structural Analysis report. Mr. Schubert explained a structural analysis completed by the applicant showed the tank can support antennas.


A-13 Visual Impact Analysis (photo-simulation of facility). Mr. Schubert said the first picture shows a view looking towards the tank location from Forest Hill Drive, with not much that can be seen of the site, and View #2 is closer down the drive towards the tanks, showing the existing condition and photo simulation.


Mr. Schubert said any colocation for additional antennas/vendors would require a separate application, license and approval by Buckingham Township.


Mr. Schubert concluded saying this Conditional Use is scheduled for a Public Hearing before the Board of Supervisor’s on September 26, 2018.


Dr. Sandberg asked how often the generator would be exercised and how loud would it be. Mr. Peterman replied once weekly, from 9:00am-10:00am (approximately 30-45 minutes), with a sound level of 65db (slightly louder than conversation).


Dr. Sandberg asked about the fuel storage for the generator; Mr. Peterman replied there would be a double wall containment vessel underneath the unit, within the unit. Dr. Sandberg said so it will not be buried; Mr. Peterman replied “correct”. Dr. Sandberg asked if the generator was to be used for power failure, and Mr. Peterman replied “correct”. Mrs. Mehling asked how long would the generator work on the amount of fuel storage; Mr. Peterman replied “8 hours”. Dr. Sandberg asked if they had considered using solar energy? Mr. Peterman said that is not a popular way to go, adding he has seen it in remote desert areas where power was difficult to get, however it was used as a power source, not as a backup. Dr. Sandberg suggested they could have battery backup, and Mr. Peterson said battery backup lasts even shorter. Mr. Schubert stated that following Hurricane Sandy, the FCC required facilities that provide communications to have robust power in terms of a generator, and declared they must have something more reliable than batteries, powered either by propane or diesel.


Mr. Ziskind asked what horsepower would the generator be as he was concerned about the noise. Mr. Schubert replied 50kw, a household generator. Mr. Brian Rawlings, Forest Hill Drive, asked if it would be in an acoustic container, and Mr. Peterman replied it could be in sound attenuation. Mr. Gray added the township could request acoustic silencing.


Mrs. Mehling asked how often maintenance personnel would be on the site. Mr. Peterman said once a month an employee in a SUV would visit to make sure the facility is secure. He said the facility has internal alarms and if equipment malfunctions it is reported to a datacenter for the technician to respond to.


Mr. Cygan Krzysztof, Forest Hill Drive, questioned health dangers as he lives within 150’ of the site. Mr. Riffel explained the FCC issues calculations for emissions and added they could have a study prepared for the Public Hearing. Mr. Riffel said the emissions fall off exponentially within 1’ of the antenna, and are very directional in nature shooting off towards the horizon, not downwards.

Mr. Riffel added he has tested for 400 sites or more, and has never seen a site with one carrier exceed FCC limits; adding exposure would be below 1%, and they would need to have 100 of these sites in the exact location to exceed the limit. Mr. Rawlings asked if Mr. Riffel would be in support of this in his own backyard, and Mr. Riffel said “yes”. Mr. Krzysztof asked if he could prove 100% this would not affect his health, and Mr. Riffel said the guidelines say it does not; adding a cell phone in a pocket provides more radiation than this will.


Mrs. Mehling asked the distance from the antennas to the closest house, and Mr. Schubert said it looks to be about 200’.


Mr. Rawlings had concerns about this facility being a gateway to another carrier, and Mr. Riffel said any additional carriers would need to prove the site would remain within the FCC guidelines. Mr. Gray said the township does allow multiple carriers, and confirmed that each one must prove they are within the FCC guidelines.


Mr. Krzysztof and Mr. Rawlings had concerns that the value of their homes will drop and their property will be devalued by this installation. Mr. Schubert said based on studies done there is no indication of any impact on property values, especially since you cannot see the water tanks or installations.


Dr. Sandberg asked how radiation was measure, and Mr. Riffel said there are specific calculations that they follow. Dr. Sandberg said the radiation could be measured by a meter. Mr. Rawlings asked if it would be measured and Mr. Riffel said they are not mandated by the FCC to perform additional studies. Dr. Sandberg said there are machines that can be rented for this purpose. Mr. Fowles noted it would be meaningless to measure until the antennas are installed. Mr. Riffel added that electronic emission levels are typically not tested on the ground, rather on a rooftop of multiple carriers and on people working close to the antennas. Mr. Ziskind said he understood the towers would test below current FCC standards, and asked what if the USA standards were ever lowered. Mr. Schubert said even if the standards were changed to be more stringent, they would have to comply.


Mr. Ziskind distributed a report to the Planning Commission members made by the United States Department of Interior regarding the protection of migratory bird, specifically regarding cellular towers within national parks that affect bird nesting. Mr. Schubert said the impact on wildlife with this installation would be none as the water tanks are already in place; he also added the impact was more with the development of houses nearby. Mr. Rawlings asked if an environmental impact assessment had been done, and Mr. Gray said that is not required for this type of facility by local or federal government. Mr. Schubert said there are several studies that are required by federal statutes that are a separate process with various agencies that must issue approval, including historic resources, archeological, native American tribal, etc.


Mr. Ziskind noted the existing trees are mostly tulip poplars, capping at 100-110’, with a few oak trees. He said the tops are dying and they are nearing the end of their natural life cycle. His concern is when they come down, there won’t be much to replace them for the next 50-60 years. He asked if more trees would be removed to make space for the generator unit and equipment; Mr. Schubert said no, the equipment would be installed on existing open space.


Mr. Schubert described the site, that when you come up the asphalt drive and turn to the right, there is a spray-painted line that mimics where the fence will be placed. The fence will be 9’ tall and will contain the cabinet. There will not be sewer or water lines needed as it is a remote facility. He said the reservoir tank is 80’ tall with the dome 85’ and then a handrail atop generally 36-42” tall.  Mr. Schubert said the top of the panels will be approximately 15’ above the highest point on the tank. Mr. Rawlings said that driving down Route 263 you will see it, and that is not what he moved here for.


Mr. Krzysztof stated he is strongly against this proposal.


Mrs. Mehling reminded the audience that the Planning Commission makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, and the final decision will be made during the Board of Supervisors meeting. She urged them to attend that meeting and express their concerns. Mrs. Mehling said they also need to consider that this proposal meets the requirements for a Conditional Use project.


Mr. Gray explained the township has rules within its zoning ordinance that must be followed, and personal wireless facilities is a permitted use through the communication overlay districts. Mr. Gray explained the township designated specific places where these facilities are preferred, as there must be a provision for them.  Mr. Gray said even if the application meets all ordinance requirements, the Township is allowed to apply conditions to the approval for health, welfare and safety of the residents.


Mr. Gray asked if he was correct that the plan shows 2 antenna arrays and a third for future or proposed; Mr. Peterman said engineering was completed for the initial installation of 6 antennas, and a structural analysis qualification for a future of 9. Mr. Riffel said that due to other technologies coming and AT&T already at overcapacity, within the next year or 2 they will need to add a third antenna to each array to provide the best service. Mr. Gray clarified are they seeking approval for 6 or 9 antennas; and Mr. Riffel said “9”. Mr. Riffel said when AT&T does emission studies for FCC compliance they consider every radio or antenna forecast at maximum output.


Mr. Gray asked if they indicate RRH antenna arrays; and Mr. Riffel clarified “Remote Radio Heads”, yes, placed as close to the antenna as possible to maximize efficiency of the system, and are on the plan appearing as little boxes near the bottom. Mr. Gray asked if they were antennas; and Mr. Riffel said no, they are fiber and antenna fed, changing from fiber to Rf. They are a converter and they are requesting approval now but they may not be installed immediately.


Mr. Gray asked if the enclosure had barb wire, and was that a requirement. Mr. Schubert said yes, but at 7’ it is flexible if aesthetics is a concern. Mr. Gray asked if it must go higher than the fence, and Mr. Schubert said the ordinance requires 8’. Mr. Rawlings then asked if it was possible not to have barb wire, and Mr. Gray said “yes”. Mrs. Mehling said it is better without the barb wire.


Mr. Gray said the arrays on the outside stick out, and asked if they could be brought tighter to the center of the structure or if they have to be on the exterior. Mr. Schubert explained the dome on the tank is sheet metal and is not an adequate attachment point. He said around the water tank is a bracing system called a wind stiffener, and the attachment is as close to that as it can be.


Mr. Ziskind asked if the generator could be located on the north side of the tank so that the structure is part of the sound barrier, as right now it faced his house. Mr. Peterman and Mr. Leonard did not see why it couldn’t. Mrs. Mehling asked for that consideration.


Mr. Kirk Stoker, Powder Horn Drive, said they moved into the neighborhood a month ago, love the area but have hardly any cell service. He recognized his neighbors, but supports better cell phone service, adding he doesn’t have AT&T, but may change.


Mr. Rawlings asked what was the radius of service for this signal and who would benefit in their neighborhood. Mr. Riffel showed Exhibit A-10, the green and white coverage map from within the exhibits. He explained there is a lot of topography in the area and clutter in the form of foliage where the Rf signal gets attenuated or weakened in the air. He said this causes unreliable service in the valleys. Mr. Riffel said this is called shadowing, and they would need a higher antenna to combat this problem.


Mr. Galligan, Green Ridge Road, said since this antenna doesn’t solve coverage within their community, is there another area near the entrance to Buckingham Forest that they will be requesting another Conditional Use; Mr. Peterman said no, that AT&T is looking at locations in Doylestown Township to bridge the coverage. Mr. Gray confirmed the townships overlay district would not permit an antenna at the entrance to the community, that they are allowed primarily on water towers, PECO utility lines, firehouse locations and other specific places.


Mr. Spadafora noted that as a volunteer serving on the Planning Commission he is not here to side with anyone but to take input and make sure the residents’ concerns are heard. He said the neighbor’s concerns need to be expressed at another level, and that they will be captured in the minutes.


Dr. Sandberg said his concerns are that noise abatement is 65db or less, the lights are not going to be on automatically, and that it would be nice to explore battery option instead of diesel.


Mrs. Fink said she heard the concerns and sees both sides. She said the zoning ordinance allows this use, as well as FCC regulations, and she sees the need for AT&T to have more towers. Mrs. Fink said she is happy for the overlay district, and this appears to be a good location.


Mr. Fowles said he will be voting in favor of approving this, adding if not placed in this location, it will be placed in another location near someone else’s homes, and is an unfortunate reality of life. He said the applicants have met the requirements of the township and FCC.  Mr. Fowles encouraged the residents to express their concerns to the Board of Supervisors.


Mrs. Mehling said she agreed with Mr. Fowles, that the residents are within their rights to express their concerns, and the applicant is within their rights.


Mr. Fowles made a motion, seconded by Mrs. Mehling, to recommend approval of the “FDH Velocitel, Inc. / AT&T Mobility” Conditional Use Application, Township File CU 2017-01, TMP# 06-037-040 (End of Forest Hill Drive – Water Tank Site), Zoned Communication Overlay District 1, with the following conditions:

1) The perimeter fence shall be raised to 8’ tall, with no barbed wire used;

2) Greater efforts shall be made to reduce generator noise, suggestions include: a) move position of the generator to the opposite side of the building than proposed on the plan, and b) increase sound insulation on the generator;

3) Applicant shall ensure that lights at the facility are positioned to avoid shining into nearby houses, and shall use light switches on a timer rather than motion activated lights.

The motion carried unanimously.


Dr. Sandberg made a second motion, seconded by Mrs. Mehling, to recommend approval of the “FDH Velocitel, Inc. / AT&T Mobility” Conditional Use Application, Township File CU 2017-01, TMP# 06-037-040 (End of Forest Hill Drive – Water Tank Site), Zoned Communication Overlay District 1, with the following conditions:

1) Applicant shall explore the possibility of using solar power with a battery backup in place of a gasoline or diesel generator;

2)  If a generator will be used, it is recommended that the decibel reading shall be less than 65 decibels.

Dr. Sandberg called the vote: Mr. Spadafora voted “nay”, Mr. Fowles voted “nay”, Mrs. Fink voted “aye”, Mrs. Mehling voted “aye, and Dr. Sandberg voted “aye. The motion carried with three “ayes”, and two “nays”.




Mrs. Mehling made a motion, seconded by Mr. Fowles, to adjourn the Planning Commission meeting at 9:07 p.m. The motion carried unanimously.


Minutes respectfully submitted by Lori Wicen.

View Meeting Minutes prior to June 23, 2009