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Port Washington-area villages enact laws to block cell antennas

Illinois-based ExteNet Systems Inc. wants to add 60

Illinois-based ExteNet Systems Inc. wants to add 60 cellphone antennas on utility poles in the Town of North Hempstead, including 23 in the village of Plandome Manor. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Alarmed by the specter of cell towers on the horizon, multiple villages in the Town of North Hempstead have recently adopted stronger laws to regulate telecommunications within their boundaries.

Earlier this year, Illinois-based wireless company ExteNet Systems Inc. contacted villages on the Port Washington peninsula about installing more than 60 cellphone antennas on utility poles throughout the town. Formal applications have not yet been submitted.

Villages have responded with varying degrees of intensity, with some trustee boards electing to enact laws governing cell infrastructure, and others adopting yearlong moratoriums forbidding any applications.

Officials said they are concerned about the placement and aesthetics of potential cell antennas, in addition to the effect on the health and safety of residents.

According to preliminary correspondence, 23 antennas are planned for Plandome Manor, the most throughout the town. Village Mayor Barbara Donno said her village adopted its six-month moratorium to give the board “breathing room” to study different codes and hire an outside consultant to analyze the issue.

“We were very concerned that we have a strong enough code in place to be able to protect our residents,” Donno said. “We don’t know how big, how high, where these are going . . . We all have a lot of concerns. What will it look like in the village?”

Plandome Manor’s moratorium, which was passed unanimously in June, prohibits any permits from being issued for cell infrastructure during a six-month period. It does not ban the submission of applications.

The law also establishes requirements for any future applications, such as documents supporting the need for the towers.

The villages of Flower Hill and Plandome have both passed yearlong moratoriums preventing applications from being “filed, accepted or processed.”

“We’re going to look at everything from soup to nuts on this,” said Flower Hill Deputy Mayor Brian Herrington. “We need to stop, pause and see what the evolution of technology has been.”

The trend has not gone unobserved by other villages in the town. Though ExteNet does not have plans to install antennas in Plandome Heights, the village board passed an extensive telecommunications law in July that sets forth requirements for any future applications.

The town is also seeking to update its telecommunications law and recently put out a bid for outside counsel. Town Attorney Elizabeth Botwin said the town was considering its alternatives because proposals failed to meet requirements.

Town council member Dina De Giorgio said she has reached out to multiple villages to collaborate on creating a consistent set of rules and that the town needed to step up to the plate.

“We need to act to protect our residents,” De Giorgio said. “We don’t want to be in a situation where we have laws weaker than the surrounding villages’.”

Tough sell on cell technology

A total of 66 antennas would be installed in the Town of North Hempstead, primarily on utility poles and municipal streetlights:18 — Flower Hill

1 — Munsey Park

9 — Plandome

23 — Plandome Manor

15 — North Hempstead Town

ExteNet, an Illinois-based company, would:

  • Affix antennas and radio equipment to existing infrastructure.
  • Install fiber-optic cable to link the equipment to the network.
  • Aim for a goal of “high-quality mobile connectivity.”

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