Written by Katie Piacentini Friday, 07 May 2010 00:00
Mayor Michael Meehan has sent a letter to AG Towers telling them to move the cell tower on 41 Pequot Avenue and suggesting alternate locations. Residents have wondered why this went on for so long, but the mayor has indicated that there are reasons why he can tell AG Towers to move the cell tower at this point in time.
In late October, Superintendent of Buildings David Mammina issued a stop work order at the cell tower construction site. The basis of the stop work order was that the tower foundation was built in the wrong location and is not in compliance with the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) approval issued last year. Recently, AG Towers filed new plans with Manorhaven’s Building Department to move the tower to the previously approved location, instead of seeking permission from the BZA to legalize the tower in the incorrect location. However, after the village carefully reviewed these plans, it became clear that if the tower was built in the new location on 41 Pequot Avenue, several feet away from the current location, it would block access to the village pump station. Mayor Meehan has said that this would be totally unacceptable to the village and that this is an inappropriate location for the cell tower.
Moving this tower would be a welcome change for residents. As many people might recall, there was a vegetable garden at the location where the cell tower was built. Residents are saddened by the current look and state of the neighborhood due to what many have called a “monstrosity.” They are worried about health risks if the tower was ever turned on and decreasing real estate values.
Over the past few months, Mayor Meehan has given public statements, providing updates on the cell tower situation to residents. Throughout all of these statements, Meehan has said that he never agreed to host a cell tower on village property and that he would not have approved locating a cell tower in the residential neighborhood of Manhasset Isle. He said that his administration did not approve the lease for the cell tower, and that it was done by the Capozzi administration. On December 4, he stated, “The main approvals for this project were given by the prior village administration and very few residents were aware of what was happening at that time.” Additionally, Meehan noted in this statement that they are not keeping any rental income from the tower.
The following is Mayor Meehan’s current statement regarding the Manhasset Isle cell tower site, in its entirety:
“Since last summer, the village has been actively working to address the cell tower issue. This project was approved by the Capozzi Administration, but my administration has been dealing with the consequences.
“Over the past 10 months, I have listened and I have learned. I have learned that federal law substantially prohibits opposition by municipalities to the locations selected by telecommunications companies for cell phone transmission facilities. I have learned that this legal reality is not going to be changed by our federal representatives any time soon. I have learned that a new village administration is bound by the lawful contracts and land-use approvals it inherits from a prior administration, no matter how wise or ill advised they may have been. I have learned that a mayor cannot always tell residents what they want to hear, when they want to hear it.
“I have listened, truly listened, to the voices that have been raised regarding this project. I have listened to those who believe the tower will impact negatively on the quality of life in Manhasset Isle. I have listened to the plight of the next-door neighbor, who was most affected by last year’s construction activity. I have listened to the helpful input offered by many residents, who took the time to speak with village officials out of sincere concern for their neighbors.
“Working closely with the Board of Trustees, I have made certain that the interest of our village and our taxpayers has been protected at all times. Our village attorney and outside counsel have carefully and expertly guided us regarding the legal issues. Our superintendent of buildings and village clerk-treasurer have responded, in their usual highly professional manner, to the various administrative challenges that have arisen. I have mailed five detailed updates to every home in the village, in order to provide our residents with timely and accurate information on the cell tower. Although discussion sometimes became heated, several Board of Trustee meetings dealt almost exclusively with this issue and our Village Hall staff has been available to listen and respond to concerned residents.
“There has been no work at the site for many months, because of the ‘stop work’ order issued by my administration. And the cell tower has never been turned on.
“The latest development, as I announced at the most recent Board of Trustees meeting, is that AG Towers has applied to the village to move the tower a few feet to the location previously approved, rather than seek permission from the Board of Zoning Appeals to have it remain in its current incorrect location. This is AG’s right to do. Our superintendent of buildings has done a preliminary review of these new plans. He has informed me that, in order to achieve the goal of re-erecting the tower in that precise location, access and egress problems with respect to the village pump station may be created, which result would be totally unacceptable to the village.
“So, at this point, it would be a fair question to ask, ‘What’s next?’
“It is surely a difficult question, but let me try. The village will continue to respect the lawful contracts and land use approvals it inherited from the prior administration. The village will continue to respect the legitimate concerns of the residents who live near the site. Needless to say, the village will obey the law and any order rendered by the court in this matter, as we continue to do our best to see this issue resolved in the best interest of our village.
“However, under the totality of the circumstances, and after months of careful thought and consideration, I have come to a personal determination that locating a cell tower at the 41 Pequot Avenue site is inappropriate. Therefore, I have today written to AG Towers to inform them of my position and suggesting alternate locations for their antennas. It is time for AG to come to the table and work with the village to identify a site that will be effective for their needs and not impact on our residents to the same degree as is currently the case.
“All interested parties should work together, in good faith, to make this reasonable goal a reality.”