Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Town of Hempstead's Proposed Cell Tower Ordinance Warrants Support

Hempstead Proposes Tough New Law to Control Cell Towers, Hire Wireless Communications Expert

Making telecommunications giants meet the highest standard of proof in establishing the need for new cell towers as well as ensuring that approved wireless communications equipment is located at sites that minimize negative impacts on local communities are the motivation behind a new proposal by Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray. In addition, Murray announced at a Franklin Square press conference that the town has retained nationally renowned wireless telecommunications expert Richard Comi to review applications and provide objective testimony on wireless telecommunications applications that come before the Hempstead Board of Appeals. The Supervisor was joined by Councilmen James Darcy and Ed Ambrosino, Town Clerk Mark Bonilla, Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin and Mr. Comi. Also present were Nassau County Legislators John Ciotti and Vincent Muscarella and several members of the Franklin Square community who have successfully fought a proposal to locate a cell tower in their neighborhood.

"The new law that is being proposed will provide protections that neighbors deserve when confronted with proposals for new cell towers and antennae," stated the Supervisor. "Wireless communications providers will have to submit compelling evidence indicating an absolute need for new wireless equipment, and the town's new expert will give residents a voice with the same technical knowledge as the consultants hired by the telecommunications industry. Mr. Comi will ensure that cell companies provide accurate technical information to the town's board of appeals."

The town's proposal authorizes Hempstead to retain consultants like Mr. Comi to review and analyze the applications of wireless service providers. Further, the new legislation outlines documentation that applicants must provide as evidence in establishing an absolute need for the proposed wireless equipment. Among the required documentation are drive test or call test results that demonstrate gaps in service as well as a checklist to determine whether existing locations have been excluded from consideration. Maps detailing all structures within 1500 feet of a proposed location are also mandated.

A key goal of the town's proposed law is to encourage shared use or co-location of new antennae onto existing cell towers or other structures while discouraging the unnecessary construction of new towers. In support of that priority, applicants for new cell towers must furnish a written report to the town detailing meaningful efforts to co-locate. Cell companies requesting a new tower must also conduct widely advertised balloon tests which offer the public a representation of the visual impact of a newly proposed tower utilizing a large, brightly colored balloon at the proposed tower site. Written reports, replete with pictorial representations of the proposed tower must also be produced as well as a thorough discussion of steps the applicant would take to effectively minimize the visual intrusion of wireless structures as much as possible.

"Minimizing the number of cell towers in local communities is an important priority," said Ambrosino. "This legislation will help residents to receive more information and allow them to participate in cell tower public hearings in a meaningful way."

Establishing a priority agenda, outlining the town's preferences in the siting of wireless telecommunications equipment, is an important component of Hempstead's planned law. First priority would recommend co-locating equipment on existing structures on town-owned and other public property. The second most preferred option would be the co-location of equipment on other existing structures (towers) in the town. The third priority would be a new tower located on town-owned or other public properties. Other preferred options (in order of priority) include a new tower on industrial-zoned land, light manufacturing areas, other non-residential areas within the town. The least preferred option would be the location of a new tower on residentially zoned land.

"Putting forth a clearly defined priority list for the locating of wireless equipment will help promote their placement in areas that present the least impact on residential communities," stated Darcy.

Other highlights of the new legislation include the following:

* No new cell towers or antennae shall be located closer than 1500 feet to a residential home, house of worship, daycare center or school.

* Applicants proposing new cell towers must provide a report inventorying existing towers and other suitable structures within 2 miles of a proposed cell tower site.

* In justifying a request for a cell tower of any height, data must be provided to document the effectiveness of a tower at a lower total height at the same location.

"We are pleased to work together with the town on any measures that will protect residents from the intrusion of unwarranted cell towers in local neighborhoods," stated Ciotti.

"We have fought successfully against a cell tower that was not needed right here in Franklin Square and I support legislation that gives neighbors a greater voice in determining where cell towers are located," stated Muscarella.

The town's new proposed wireless communications law will also codify guidelines that support oversight in the placement of other wireless communications equipment to be installed within Hempstead Town.

"Hempstead Town will now have the most aggressive tools at its disposal in dealing with telecommunications giants," concluded Murray. "A new telecommunications law and the testimony of a telecommunications expert at public wireless communications hearings will protect residents and give them greater voice in the preserving the suburban character of our communities."

To view the proposed new ordinance, please visit

To offer comment, go to the Town's Helpline form. Complete and submit.


  1. Let me offer a little bit of a contrarian view. I also think it makes sense to have some kind of review process when it comes to siting cell phone towers. On the other hand, I think this issue is being portrayed somewhat simplistically, in both local media as well as by many of our elected leaders. In addition, I have concerns about the way the statute as proposed will end up getting enforced.

    Concern about property values is totally legitimate and constitutes, in my view, the primary reason for this kind of legislation. On the other hand, some of the community reaction has to do with what I see as overstated concerns about health issues, which at least some public office holders have tended to both exploit and exacerbate. In addition, there is also a legitimate community concern that Hempstead not get left behind while other municipalities continue to advance their wireless infrastructure. This has economic implications, which would, ironically, also impact property values over time.

    The law, as proposed, is clearly designed to make it more difficult to add wireless infrastructure in Hempstead (notwithstanding some of the language in the proposed law.) Again, I think it is legitimate to mandate a burden of proof when it comes to anything that might impact property values. On the other hand, one would assume that this would be of less concern for houses of worship (presumably focused on somewhat more spiritual issues than property values) or schools and other public institutions. (One also wonders what this means for all the schools, homes, daycare centers, etc, who ALREADY have towers within 1500 feet? I can't imagine that this law contemplates a wholesale dismantling of existing towers; on the other hand, I can't imagine that those who already own a home that happens to be in the shadow of a tower are going to be happy either, to the extent that their property values will now suffer compared to some of their neighbors'.)

    Finally, I get nervous about anything that confers yet more authority on the Town of Hempstead in the name of preserving the "surburban character of our communities." This same old sorry line gets trotted out again and again in a way that does nothing but obstruct progress. Witness the downfall of the recent Lighthouse project.

    So bottom line: I think the law is a good idea but only if it is enforced fairly, and in a way that reflects ALL community interests. Unfortunately, I don't think that will happen.

  2. Glad to see Kate actually doing something for a change. Do you think we can get an ordinance that protects us against the constant bombardment of Murraygrams?