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Wireless carrier ExteNet sues Flower Hill after village denies application to install cell nodes

Flower Hill Village Hall.

Flower Hill Village Hall. Credit: Google Maps

ExteNet has sued a second North Hempstead village after it too denied the company’s request to install small wireless facilities in the village.  

The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, came a month after the Village of Flower Hill denied ExteNet's application to install 18 “cell nodes” on utility poles and street lamps in the village.

Earlier this year, Illinois-based ExteNet sued Lake Success after the village partially denied its application to install 13 nodes there. The two parties are in mediation.

Much of the most recent dispute between Flower Hill and ExteNet focused on the nodes’ aesthetic impact.

The village said last month that ExteNet did not minimize the equipment’s adverse visual impacts and failed to show alternatives and finalize a plan, all of which ExteNet disputed in the complaint.

“The Village Board faulted ExteNet for offering alternative designs for the Board to choose from, stating that it was ExteNet’s obligation to identify one plan and propose only that, while at the same time finding that all the designs ExteNet proposed failed to meet the Village’s requirements anyway,” company attorneys wrote in the complaint.

ExteNet further accused the village board of “obdurately” denying the company access to its community by refusing to process permits, implementing a moratorium and failing to provide “objective” aesthetic standards, according to court documents.

Flower Hill passed a yearlong moratorium in 2017, forbidding any wireless facility applications. In March, the board adopted a law that requires applicants who file a small-cell application to also apply for a special-use permit.

ExteNet representatives have said the equipment, which includes a backpack-size cabinet and a small antenna, will improve wireless coverage and capacity. But Flower Hill residents at several public hearings questioned the need for the equipment and raised concerns about potential negative health effects and aesthetic impacts.

Edward Ross, a Garden City-based attorney who represents Lake Success and who was hired by Flower Hill two weeks before the village denied ExteNet’s application, said that the village hasn’t been served yet and that he is not in a position to comment because he hasn’t seen a copy of the lawsuit.

Following Flower Hill’s Sept. 3 decision, Ross said in a statement that local municipalities retain local control over wireless facility siting decisions despite federal regulations limiting their authority over the matter.

“ExteNet needs to come clean with the fact that its commercial objectives and contractual obligations are in conflict with the communities which ExteNet is purporting to serve,” Ross said. The company “needs to do a much better job to design networks which minimize the adverse impacts to those communities as required by law.”

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