Written by Chris Boyle Wednesday, 18 June 2014 00:00
The Levittown Property Owners Association (LPOA) enjoyed one of the largest turnouts in its existence on June 10. However, the occasion itself was not one to crow about, as the meeting room at the
Levittown Public Library was jam-packed with residents furious over plans to install a Verizon cell tower within a residential neighborhood.
The proposed cell tower would be located on the property of the Veterans of Foreign Wars [VFW] Post 9592, located at 55 Hickory Lane.
At the meeting, audience members claiming to live as close as 300 feet within the potential site, voiced complaints ranging from possible health concerns to lowered property values if the tower’s installation is eventually allowed to go forward.
Hempstead Chief Deputy Town Attorney Charles Kovit said that Verizon has not yet submitted any applications or building permits, but when that time comes, he assured audience members that Town of Hempstead staff would go over them with a fine-tooth comb.
“I spoke directly with Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray and she told me—in no uncertain terms—that town staff takes this matter as seriously and as aggressively as possible to make sure that the application is scrutinized under the strictest letter of the law,” he said. “The people of Levittown have serious issues, serious concerns, and our one focus is to maintain the character of the area and the property values... we have gotten signals from the applicant that permit applications are coming, but we have not received them yet.”
With no applications having been submitted as of press time, the planned height of the wireless telecommunication facilities or the exact distance from residential housing is currently unknown, Kovit said.
However, he added that town ordiance dictates that any such tower must be a minimum distance from housing, equal to its height plus ten feet.
Kovit said that the likelihood of any Verizon cell tower applications being sent to the Hempstead Zoning Board for consideration was high, as it is required when new wireless equipment is slated to be installed in a residential area to give the public a chace to voice their concerns.
“The Zoning Board is very receptive to the concerns of neighbors and will listen very carefully to what you have to say,” Kovit said. “Also, Supervisor Murray searched the country for experts to go to these
Zoning Board meetings to be able to give testimony to counter claims made by the suits hired by companies such as Verizon and AT&T... to throw it back in their face, so to speak.”
Richard Comey, a consultant with the Town of Hempstead and cell phone technology expert, said that the major wireless carriers, quite simply “don’t like him,” because he make is a point to speak his mind when it comes to matters such as these.
“The cell companies don’t like it when the people get the truth, especially when it comes to the need of additional wireless coverage in a given area,” Comey said. “What I do is ensure that the data that the companies are providing is accurate and complete, and we go back to them several times to determine if what they’re asking for is what they actually need.”
Comey also said that his firm—the largest independent wireless consulting company in the U.S.—will also take a deep look at how the tower could impact the aesthetics of the community and its property values.
“We determine if a facility is indeed needed or not,” he said. “And if it is actually needed, we determine where it should go and what must be done to absolutely minimize the impact on the surrounding neighbors and their homes.”
However, while the town can deny Verizon’s application based on zoning considerations, according to a law passed by the federal government, local municipalities are not allowed to turn down wireless companies from installing equipment based solely on health concerns, as this falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission. As a result, Kovit urged local residents to contact their local county legislators and U.S. Congressman Peter King to let them know how they feel about this issue.
“I’ve known [Rep.] Peter King for many years,” Kovit said.
“He is not someone who has been influenced by the multi-billion dollar telecom industry... he shares your concerns, believe me.”