The Village of Mineola Board of Trustees held another hearing for a Sprint PCS proposal to install cellular phone antennas on a radio station tower, located at 260 East 2nd Street in Mineola. As was the case with the previous hearings held, the cellular providers' witnesses testified that the antennas would not affect the aesthetic look of the neighborhood nor property values and emissions from the antennas are well within the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines. However, residents and board members still expressed concerns and the board reserved decision on the application.
The Sprint plans called for four antennas to be built on the tower of the WTHE, a gospel radio station with its tower on East 2nd Street, in a manufacturing and industrial zoning district. The plans call for the mounting of four public utility communication antennas to two of the legs of the tower as well as the installation of a 11-foot by 21-foot ground-based communications facility. Sprint appeared before for the special use permit to install two antennas at 110 feet above ground level and two at 103 feet above ground level. The antennas are one foot wide and four feet high.
Sprint PCS submitted the application, claiming a gap of service that needed to be filled for a continuous communication network. The gap of service, representatives said, is within an area that encompasses part of East Williston, part of Carle Place and part of Mineola.
By putting four cellular phone antennas slightly 100 feet above ground level at 260 East 2nd Street, Sprint PCS believes it can close the gap of service that covers an area that's northern boundary is slightly past Hillside Avenue (parallel to the East Williston Golf Course) in East Williston; a southern border that extends to Old Country Road; an eastern border that extends to Cherry Lane in Carle Place and a western border that extends to Roslyn Road. The gap of service includes parts of Glen Cove Road, Jericho Turnpike and the Northern State Parkway. Sprint's witnesses testified that by installing the antennas on the radio station tower, the gap of service would be closed. A witness for Sprint testified that calls made or received or received in the existing gap using the Sprint service may experience interference so that words would be garbled or clipped off or, in a worst case scenario, calls would be unable to be made or received.
As with the case in all of the cellphone antenna hearings the village has held, the case of possible health risks was brought out. The issue of whether emissions from cellular phones and antennas are harmful is one that has been debated.
Sprint witness Lou Cornacchia of Scinetics testified that the waves emitted by the proposed antennas on 260 East 2nd Street easily conform to FCC regulations. However, village residents have that reservation and don't want to live in a community that may or may not have danger.
"If the scientists who say [the waves] wont hurt you are wrong, we lose and the children lose," said Mineola resident Charles Melvin.
"We don't know what effect these waves will have on our health and we're putting these antennas by a pool and fields where kids play," said Mineola Civic Association President Bill Urianek, who urged the board to deny the application.
However, Sprint's attorney Alfred Amato of Amato and Associates in Garden City, pointed out that the village cannot deny the application based on health concerns as long as the emissions of the proposed site are within FCC regulations.
Village trustee Elizabeth Conlon expressed concern about the communications facility proposed as part of the plan. The facility would be unmanned, visited once a month and monitored from a remote location. If there should be an accident such as a fire, trustee Conlon wanted to know how long it would take before Sprint workers would arrive at the scene. Neither counsel nor Sprint's witnesses were prepared to answer the question.
Also, a Mineola resident wanted to know where Sprint's antennas were located in surrounding locations such as East Williston, Carle Place and Garden City. The resident suggested that Mineola was getting more than its fair share of cellular phone antennas.
Sprint's representatives would only state the other locations in the village that have the company's antennas such as the Key Span building at 250 Old Country Road, which was recently approved by the village board, and another location at Maple Place.
Amato said the village board had a fiduciary responsibility to make sure wireless systems such as Sprint's are properly deployed, citing the importance of cellphones in emergency situations. However, the board reserved decision on the hearing.
The other cellular phone antennas hearing scheduled to take place involved an application by Communications Leasing Inc. for a special use permit to construct outdoor equipment cabinets and a structure containing transformer equipment and to affix antennas to an existing communications tower, located at 266 Maple Place. However, the applicant asked for an adjournment. The hearing will take place on January 16.
The village's wireless ordinance provides for the board to set an annual permit fee. For a company maintaining antennas in the village, the board voted to set the annual permit fee at $2,000 per year per antenna.
On the village calendar, there are public hearings scheduled for Nov. 28. However, it was announced that no hearings will take place on that date.