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Hempstead Town Board Expected to Adopt New Cell Tower Regulations

Residents pleased with town's action on issue, but concerns remain over already installed wireless equipment.

The Hempstead Town Board will hold a public hearing Tuesday morning on new cell tower regulations meant in part to keep the wireless equipment away from homes and schools. 

The new ordinance, which is expected to be approved by the board at the 10:30 a.m. meeting, comes as residents throughout the town have been slamming wireless company proposals to install cell antennas at churches, libraries and firehouses.

One feature of the new ordinance would be not allowing cell towers or antennas within 1,500 feet of homes, houses of worship, day care centers and schools, unless the telecommunications provider can prove the need for such a facility in that location.

The legislation would also require wireless companies to provide documentation that proves the need for a tower or antennae, such as service gaps in the area, and to present a checklist to determine whether existing cell phone sites could accommodate additional equipment.

"Our proposal pushes the wireless communications industry to locate equipment at sites that minimize the negative aspects to our local communities," Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said during a press conference last month announcing the new law. "We are really putting the telecommunications industry to the strictest test."

Civic leaders who have been urging the town to fight back against cell towers, including North Merrick Community Civic Association President Claudia Borecky, have praised town officials for taking steps in the right direction.

"This ordinance is one of the most important pieces of legislation coming out of Hempstead," Borecky said. "Now, like its neighboring towns, the Town of Hempstead will have a means to manage and control future wireless telecommunication installations."

Town Board members shouldn't expect a standing ovation Tuesday, however, as residents remain concerned about what the new ordinance means for cell antennas already located near homes and schools. 

"We must thank the Town Board for writing this new code," Borecky said. "But we also must implore them to remove any clauses that will mean a death sentence to our attempts at removing the cell antennae that haunt our neighbors."

Back in June, Bellmore residents voiced opposition over a proposed cell tower at the North Bellmore Fire Department's maintenance facility on Newbridge Road. The Zoning Board Approval Meeting scheduled for July 14 was adjourned.

At a community meeting in Wantagh last month, Charles Kovit, the town's senior deputy attorney, told residents that they shouldn't be optimistic about the town's ability to get existing cell antennas taken down or relocated. 

But last week, in an interview with News 12, Kovit said that none of the cell antennas put up around town over the last year by NextG Networks would be grandfathered into the new ordinance. 

"Either we are going to have fruitful negotiations with them [NextG] to move the towers that are most objectionable or we are going to assert our position in court," Kovit said.

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