Tiff over holding cell tower debate

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A disagreement over when to discuss a proposed cellphone tower led to verbal sparks between several residents and officials at a recent village board of trustees meeting in Brightwaters.

About 50 people came to village hall to voice concerns about a proposal to install a 100-foot cellphone tower at Gilbert Park. But officials said the proposal wasn't on the agenda Monday and residents would have to wait for a scheduled public hearing -- a proclamation met with defiance.

"If and when we decide to have an open meeting on the cell tower, every resident in this village will be informed," Mayor Joseph A. McNulty said. "There'll be no discussion."

Several residents interjected from their seats, venting frustration and concern that the process would not be transparent.

"If everyone's already here, maybe you want to hear the concerns," resident Bernadette Whitewell said.

McNulty said the issue -- which is not yet in the form of legislation -- was still being studied by village officials, and he had no answers for the public, whom he called "wonderful people because you're concerned."

That didn't appease Whitewell, who responded: "Maybe we're not looking for answers. We want to express concerns."

Since the board of trustees floated the idea in July of erecting the tower to generate revenue, residents have expressed concern about the potential impact on the health and safety of the community.

Village trustees have said the tower could generate up to $12 million in revenue over 50 years. But some residents have questioned that figure and said the tower would be an eyesore.

A group of residents has planned a meeting Thursday at 8 p.m. at St. Luke's Lutheran Church for those opposed to the tower. Andrew Barnett, a Brightwaters resident who organized the meeting, also invited an attorney and said a petition he started against the tower has so far garnered 150 signatures.

Three companies -- Elite Towers, North Shore Tower Inc. and Suffolk Wireless Llc -- have submitted proposals. McNulty said he has asked the planning board to examine them and make a recommendation.

Village Attorney John P. Finnerty defended the mayor's decision not to discuss the tower at the meeting. "A healthy debate requires that everyone be notified so that all sides can be heard," he said.

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