The Oyster Bay Town Board unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday night intended to discourage cellphone transmission equipment from being sited by in residential neighborhoods.
The ordinance creates a longer process for companies to install equipment and requires them to seek alternatives before being permitted to site cellphone antennae in residential areas.
The new ordinance will require companies wishing to install new wireless communication towers and antennae to obtain a building permit from the department of planning and development. That process will now include a deposit of $8,500 per location that will be used to pay a consultant to review their application.
“We are curing an ill that has caused so much consternation of our residents,” Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said after the town board meeting and the vote. “We agree that these repeaters and this telecommunication technology does not belong in residential neighborhoods.”
Under the ordinance, companies will be required to test the radio frequency emissions coming from antennae every six months to ensure that they are in compliance with Federal Communications Commission standards.
New antennae will need to obtain a special use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The ordinance was designed to encourage co-location of wireless facilities — which means that new antennae are installed on the site of existing facilities. Applicants that wish to install new antennae that are not on existing facilities will need to demonstrate why they won’t be at alternative locations or co-located.
Applications will also require a “visual impact assessment” that include a before and after photographs, including photo simulations.
The ordinance focuses on aesthetics rather than health issues.
The town faces a federal lawsuit from Crown Castle NG East LLC of Texas, brought after Saladino revoked the company’s permits to install cellphone antennae in residential areas in May.
According to the lawsuit, the town issued the permits in April. The town acknowledged in court a filing that it issued 22 permits to the company in April for work on the town’s right of way. The cellphone antennae were installed in the “utility strip” on private property that is the town’s right of way. The town also acknowledged in its court filing that in March the company sent a letter to a town attorney agreeing to reduce the height of the antennae.
At a news conference Tuesday, Saladino said he did not know when the town issued the permits. Saladino described the installation of the cellphone equipment as “an unfortunate invasion” of residents’ quality of life that came without notice or residents’ input.
“Under this new initiative we can stop these intrusive devices before they’re put up,” Saladino said.
The ordinance would require a building permit in order to install the cellphone antennae. The town argued in its court filing that a building had already been required of Crown Castle.
Democrats challenging Saladino and members of the all-Republican board in November held their own news conference on the issue Tuesday.
Marc Herman, the Democratic candidate for supervisor, said residents need to know when the permits were issued.
“Saladino and his board either knowingly approved dozens of cellular permits or were out to lunch when they were approved and only realized their mistake when it was too late,” Herman said.