"We have an unusually high cancer rate here in the Village of Port North," said Port North Mayor Tom Pellegrino, as he explained, in part, the village's opposition to a request by Bell Atlantic to erect a 130 foot cellular monopole in Port North. A representative from Bell Atlantic, Al Amato, attended the village's August meeting to ask the board of trustees to suggest a site on village owned property for the pole because, according to Bell Atlantic, a gap in service exists in the area and this monopole would eliminate the deficiency. The structure requires leasing 1,200 square feet which Bell Atlantic would pay $22-$24,000 per year for.
In the first part of the meeting, Mayor Pellegrino had initially requested another meeting, this one with Bell Atlantic's experts, so that they could explain and "reassure" residents that no health and safety issues exist in connection to emissions from the monopole. Mr. Amato explained that Bell Atlantic would provide expert testimony and scientific studies showing that the emissions from the structure are thousands of times less than the regulations promulgated by the FCC. However, the board and Mr. Amato appear to have scotched that idea when it became evident that the board of trustees could find no location in the village that was appropriate for the pole, because all possible sites were adjacent to homes or the school.
During the few months prior to the August meeting, Bell Atlantic had made a request to the board of trustees to place a tower at 29 Valley Road, which the board rejected. Subsequently, Bell Atlantic applied to the Board of Zoning and Appeals for a variance to erect the tower. The BZA adjourned the application, pending Bell Atlantic asking the board of trustees to recommend another village owned piece of land that would be suitable. Now it appears that Bell Atlantic will go back to the BZA and ask for a variance for 29 Valley Road.
However, if the village formally denies Bell Atlantic's request, it leaves itself open to a lawsuit, which village counsel Steve Limmer advises may prove to be unsuccessful for the village. He explained, "cellular phones all come under the general heading of telecommunications which have certain rights as public utilities. And, the federal government has made determinations with regard to their safety. I'm sure some experts will come forward who will say that more testing has to be done or that they're just not comfortable with the current studies. However, to date, none of these experts have been upheld in the courts against those experts who have said that they're perfectly safe."
Citing the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and federal case law, Mr. Amato noted that once Bell Atlantic demonstrates that the necessary guidelines are complied with, any zoning board is prohibited from considering health and safety and environmental issues in deciding whether the site can be used.
Legally, Mr. Limmer advised, the board could only limit the size of the tower if Bell Atlantic can't demonstrate a need for a 130 foot one, or it can turn them away if it's deemed that the tower has an extreme negative effect on the aesthetics of the area. "The health issue is not an issue by law," he reiterated.
As far as the payment for the property is concerned, Mr. Amato told the board that Bell Atlantic prefers to lease property from municipalities, so that all of the taxpayers can benefit from the additional revenue, rather than just one single private property owner.
Commenting, trustee Altman said, "One way or another, we're going to have this. Either the village or a private property owner will reap the financial gain."
Money, however, is not really an issue for the mayor, the board and most of the residents. Health and safety is still the overriding concern. Echoing the sentiments expressed by several residents at the meeting, the mayor told Mr. Amato that the people of Port North are "very, very antsy about cellular emissions," adding that he found Bell Atlantic's proposal "fraught with unknowns."
Mayor Pellegrino reported that the village received a site plan for the proposed senior housing on Dallas Realty's 41 acres. The board gave the plan to the Planning Board for its input.
Also announced is that bid specs for the repaving of Radcliffe Ave. are ready to be picked up.
Clarifying the rules governing unsolicited fliers placed on doorsteps, Steve Limmer advised that the laws are very broad for handout advertisements. A resident can put up a "No Soliciting" sign. However, if the fliers are not causing litter, it's difficult for the village to prevent advertisers from doing so.