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Hempstead board puts T-Mobile wireless application on hold

The Town of Hempstead pressed the "hold" button on two wireless applications Wednesday, saying it has hired a consultant to help it review the controversial projects and help it draft a new telecommunications ordinance to steer the installations away from homes and schools.

At the town's request, Hempstead's Zoning Board of Appeals voted yesterday to adjourn until Oct. 6 a proposal by T-Mobile Northeast Llc to install a series of wireless transmitters, hidden inside faux chimney tops, on the roof of the Farmingdale Wantagh Jewish Center.

A standing-room-only group of residents had packed the Knights of Columbus Hall July 7 to oppose the plan.

The zoning board also adjourned to September a separate T-Mobile proposal for a 100-foot wireless installation to be tucked inside a replacement for a radio tower owned by the North Bellmore Fire District.

Under the new ordinance now being drafted, wireless companies are "going to have to submit comprehensive applications that show they've done all their homework" in considering alternate sites, said Senior Deputy Town Attorney Charles Kovit. "They are going to be placed in the location that's the least offensive to residents - we can require them to do that."

To aid in the task, the town has retained Richard Comi, a well-known municipal consultant on cell tower applications and litigation. Comi will serve as the town's expert at hearings with an eye toward residents' needs, but will be paid by the applicants.

Kovit called Comi's participation a boon for residents long used to seeing hearings on cellular applications dominated by high-priced experts flown in by the corporations.

"Now we're going to have objective, expert input to be able to speak to these people's assertions with the same level of expertise," Kovit said. "We're not going to be subservient to their technical analysis any more."

The news drew praise from Len Massucci, 65, a retired math teacher from North Bellmore who attended yesterday's hearing. He said concerns about "aesthetics, health and property values" drove his opposition to the North Bellmore tower.

"We felt like they were just shoving it down our throats," he said.

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