Thursday, November 08, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now? Hello? Is Anybody There?

In Hempstead Town, Receiver Is Off The Hook, And The Reception Is Lousy

Our friends in Franklin Square and neighboring West Hempstead are going back before the Town's Zoning Board -- AGAIN!!! -- come December 6th, asking the Town to "just say no" to yet another cell phone tower in the heart of a residential community.

How many times has this community been before the Zoning Board on this same issue? Three? Four? We've lost count.

And how much money do already cash-strapped homeowners have to pay out of their own pockets for experts and to "lawyer up" just so they can present evidence before the unappealing Zoning Board of Appeals to the effect that (a) cell towers detract from the aesthetics of the community, and (b) there could not possibly be a "need" for yet another cell phone tower in these parts?

On aesthetics -- well, duh! Dress 'em up as bloated flagpoles or mutant trees not indiginous to this planet, and they're still unsightly.

On need -- double duh! If the service hasn't improved with the multitude of cell towers we have on Long Island (so many, in fact, that the Town is considering the creation of a Special Cell Tower Taxing District so they can collect a fee for every cell call we make), maybe its time we all switched to "the network."

If, as counsel for those opposed to the Franklin Square cell tower portends, the only bases upon which the Zoning Board may deny the Application for a cell tower (based on federal pre-emption) are "aesthetics" and "need," well, then, quadruple duh!

How many hearings at Town Hall will it take to get these guys to wake up and vote "no"?

This isn't brain surgery. Nor is this something, at least on the aesthetics issue, that requires expert testimony.

Beauty may well be in the eye of the beholder, but is there anyone out there who thinks cell towers enhance the look of a residential community?

Perhaps those opposing the Franklin Square cell tower are going for a Guiness Book record -- the most appearances before a Town of Hempstead governing body on a single issue.

If so, forget about it.

West Hempstead, on the issue of securing the closure of the Courtesy Hotel, has got you beat by about a decade!

Then again, maybe Zoning Board members get per diem payments, making encore performances by community groups money in the pocket. Ca-ching!

Of course, the sad truth is that they hear you at Town Hall. In fact, they heard you the first time, the second time, and the umpteenth time you pled your case before them.

Simply put, they're just not listening. And as long as we, the people, stay under the covers on any given election day, blinds drawn, ear plugs firmly in place, the few deciding the fate of the many, we can look forward to that deaf ear for many years to come.

Good luck, Franklin Square! Remember to pick up your cell phones, and dial "M" for Murray. If anybody answers, we'd be most surprised.
For more information, and to aid in the cause, visit the website of the Franklin Square United Neighborhood Association.
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Residents oppose plans for cell phone tower

Hundreds of Franklin Square and West Hempstead residents have called on Town of Hempstead officials to block a plan by a local communications company to build a 65-foot-high cell tower in an area they say is too close to homes and unnecessary.

Neighbors near the proposed tower are taking turns displaying signs on their lawns that say: "Refuse to lose. Grow flowers, not cell towers near our homes and schools. Say no to T-Mobile."

The group, which has raised thousands of dollars through fundraisers and hired legal and industry experts, is set to continue the year-and-a-half-long fight next month when they appear before the town's Board of Zoning Appeals.

"We don't believe there's a need for the cell tower," said Ronald Lipsky, president of the Franklin Square United Neighborhood Association. "Aesthetically, it's out of character with the neighborhood. It's right across from homes."

An attorney for T-Mobile did not return a call for comment.

The residents' battle began in June 2006 when T-Mobile representatives proposed placing a six-story tower on Dogwood Avenue, in front of the Franklin Bridge Centre Shopping Plaza in Franklin Square. They said studies found a gap in the cell phone coverage there.

But an engineer hired by the residents disputed those findings. That study showed that while there may be a spike in coverage there during the night, there is no gap.

Group members said they conducted a test last year to show there is no gap in cell coverage in the area. "We tried 100 cell phone calls from inside buildings, on the street, in cars, in homes and they all went through," said Tom McKevitt, attorney for the group.

On Dec. 6 during the zoning hearing, attorneys for T-Mobile will question the group's expert. The group can also provide additional information to the board.

"This is a unique community that has banded together to get together the tools they need to fight the fight,"McKevitt said.

Lipsky said that more than 700 people attended a rally last September in protest of the tower. He said the proposed site is down the block from a nursery school and around the corner from an elementary school.

"Health is not a defense in litigation before zoning boards, but it is a personal concern," said Lipsky, who lives behind the shopping center. "People don't want to take chances."

In the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress prohibited zoning boards from looking into the health effects of cell towers, McKevitt said. So there are only two grounds on which you can fight cell towers: aesthetics and need.

Lipsky said the group spent $21,500 last year on items such as signs, flyers and expert fees. That included $7,500 Lipsky put in himself. This year will cost about $15,000, he said.

Assemb. Tom Alfano (R-North Valley Stream), whose district includes the site, said the cell tower doesn't belong in a residential area."There's no doubt in my mind that the value of their homes would be adversely affected by the placement of this tower," he said. "It's aesthetically unpleasing."

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

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