The Franklin Square United Neighborhood Association (FSUNA), a grassroots organization formed to fight a proposal by Omnipoint to erect a cell tower at 340 Dogwood Avenue, continued its fight on May 15 before the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning and Appeals (BZA).
The hearing, which began September 28, 2006, finally resumed with both sides arguing their point. Omnipoint is proposing to erect the tower to close what the company believes is a gap in coverage in the area. However, neighborhood residents didn't take the proposal lightly and FSUNA, through its attorney Tom McKevitt, argued that not only is there not a gap in coverage but the tower would have a negative impact on the aesthetic look of the neighborhood.
Although McKevitt said the hearings have been grueling, he is confident that FSUNA presented a strong argument that the cell tower is not needed, most recently on May 15 during a nine-hour hearing. "I think we certainly made our case and made our points to the board that there's no need required for the cell tower," said McKevitt.
One of the founding members and leaders of FSUNA, Ron Lipsky of Franklin Square, has organized fundraisers to continue to fight Omnipoint, and his brother Stuart conducted a call test in the area where there was allegedly a gap of service, making phone calls in the area. "The phone works just fine. Plus, we had lots of residents come in and testify that this would be something unsightly outside their houses, which they certainly do not want to see. But I think the really big part of the case is that the cell tower is not needed under the law," McKevitt said.
The expert called to testify by McKevitt on behalf of FSUNA, Dick Comi of the Center for Municipal Solutions, doesn't believe there is a gap of coverage. Comi, who has testified numerous times in other municipalities, said that the law allows Omnipoint to have a tower if there is a gap in coverage but that gap simply doesn't exist. "To put a structure such as that, we feel just hasn't been justified in that kind of an environment. We don't believe they've proven they have that significant gap," he said.
Ron Lipsky, who has led the charge for the residents of Franklin Square, believes the residents of the area made a strong case that the proposed tower would have a negative impact on the neighborhood. Lipsky said photos taken of a crane placed by Omnipoint to simulate the height of the tower clearly show that the tower would impact the look of the area. "That tower would be widely visible and it doesn't blend into the neighborhood," he said.
According to a town spokesperson, there are no additional hearings scheduled but the BZA would keep the record open for an additional 60 minutes to submit documentation.
According to McKevitt, within 45 days, he, along with Omnipoint's attorney, Alfred Amato of Garden City, would have to file memorandums of law with findings of fact on behalf of their clients to the BZA to assist the board in making its decision. McKevitt doesn't believe a decision will be rendered until September or October.