Six villages in North Hempstead Town are grappling with a wireless company’s proposal to place up to 110 cell nodes on utility poles — including in the town — as officials continue to ponder the degree of local control they have over the matter.
ExteNet Systems Inc., an Illinois-based company that builds cellphone infrastructure for wireless providers, has been contracted by Verizon to install the nodes in Munsey Park, Kings Point, Lake Success, Flower Hill, Plandome and Plandome Manor.
ExteNet plans to request 16 nodes in the Town of North Hempstead but has not filed a formal application.
The small cell facilities, which ExteNet said will improve wireless coverage and capacity, have proved deeply unpopular among residents. In some cases, opponents have packed public hearings to question the need for the equipment and to raise concerns about potential negative health effects and aesthetic impacts.
Andrew Campanelli, a Merrick-based attorney who represents 65 residents in three villages, said his clients in Lake Success submitted evidence that showed adverse aesthetic impact and negative effect on their property value if the proposed nodes are installed nearby.
He argued in front of the Flower Hill village board on June 3 that the village has full power to say no.
“I hear an argument that something that the [Federal Communications Commission] did somehow now requires you to grant this application,” he said. “That is absolutely hogwash.”
The nodes are no larger than 6 cubic feet and are typically attached to utility poles at various rights of way. When no existing infrastructure is available, ExteNet proposes building decorative streetlights to host the nodes.
Village officials have been wrestling with how to handle ExteNet’s application. Thus far, two village boards approved the company’s request, one partially denied ExteNet’s application and three others are mulling it over.
A changing regulatory landscape has posed a level of uncertainty as to what the current state of local control is, said Peter Baynes, executive director of the New York Conference of Mayors.
Baynes’ organization recommends cities and villages “be proactive in preserving their remaining autonomy” by articulating the ways in which applications will be reviewed and aesthetic considerations will be imposed.
The issue, Baynes said, is about local control and quality of life.
“People invest in their property,” he said. “They want to make sure the aesthetics of their neighborhoods are retained and not marred by the siting of the small cells.”
In the past two years, some villages enacted laws governing cell infrastructure and adopted yearlong moratoriums forbidding any applications. Most recently, several villages hired outside consultants to help them evaluate ExteNet's application.
Lake Success, one of the villages that sought outside consulting, denied nine of the 13 nodes requested by the company in May, stating in a written decision that ExteNet failed to “meet the village’s goals to minimize adverse aesthetic and visual impacts,” among other things.
Munsey Park and Kings Point granted ExteNet’s application, citing strict federal laws.
ExteNet declined to comment on the legal aspect of the matter.
At the June 3 hearing, Flower Hill Deputy Mayor Brian Herrington reassured residents, who overwhelmingly opposed ExteNet’s application, that the board has not made a decision yet.
“This will not be the last meeting,” Herrington said.
ExteNet is asking to install 110 nodes in the Town of North Hempstead and six villages.
Kings Point approved 31 nodes in March.
Munsey Park approved one node in April.
Lake Success denied nine out of 13 nodes requested by the company in May.
Flower Hill held a hearing on June 3 to hear ExteNet’s request to install 18 nodes.
Plandome held a hearing on June 10 to hear ExteNet’s presentation to install 10 nodes.
ExteNet asked to install 21 nodes in Plandome Manor.
ExteNet plans to request 16 nodes in the Town of North Hempstead. Formal application has not been filed.