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Oyster Bay board postpones hearing on changes to cell tower code

The Oyster Bay Town Board on Tuesday postponed a hearing on proposed code changes that would restrict cellphone tower installation in residential areas while the proposal is being revised.

Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said the planned changes in the proposal are aimed at making sure it can withstand court challenges.

“We have to make sure that everything is being done legally,” he said in an interview.

Saladino said their outside legal counsel, Garden City-based Berkman, Henoch, Peterson, Peddy & Fenchel, was also working to ensure the proposed code changes would address concerns of residents.

Last month, Saladino ordered seven permits for cellphone repeaters to be rescinded and the town board hired the law firm to represent it on wireless communication matters.

The brewing legal battle began more than a month ago when companies installed about two dozen cellphone “microcells” on behalf of Verizon Wireless on the utility strip of private residences between sidewalks and the curb. This strip is a public right of way on which utility companies may install equipment.

The board nonetheless opened the hearing to take comments from about a half-dozen residents who had come to the morning meeting with concerns about safety, lack of information and potential impact on property values. The hearing is to continue at the board’s June 20 meeting at 7 p.m.

One resident told the board she believed the microcell installed in the right of way on her residential property was “potentially harmful.”

“Are we going to wait for people to get sick? It’s too late for that,” said Marlene Wald, 68, of Woodbury. “These have to go.”

The current proposal would move the permitting process for the kind of cellphone towers in question out of the town highway department and into the department of planning and development.

Verizon Wireless spokesman David Weissmann said in an email that the company was in compliance with regulations.

“Verizon Wireless follows all local, state and federal guidelines as we build our network,” Weissmann said.

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