The Town of Huntington has created a new chapter in its town code to regulate the installation of cellphone towers.
Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said Huntington’s town code had only basic telecommunication provisions to regulate "wireless telecommunication facilities." Federal and state rules generally supersede local laws, he said.
The new rules modernize the code, he said, and add very specific guidelines to "exert" the town’s authority on applications to install cell towers within its borders.
"We’ve had a lot of feedback in the past several years on the town’s role to regulate the installation of cellphone towers, antennas and equipment," Lupinacci said. "We are confined in this area because of federal and state law, so we’re trying to exercise the authority that we have with the extent permissible by federal and state law."
Cell tower proposals have sparked opposition on Long Island in recent years, as phone companies seek broader coverage areas and faster speeds, and residents raise health, safety, aesthetic and property value concerns.
Although the town does not have authority to regulate radio frequency emissions, Lupinacci said Huntington does have the authority to regulate these: proper locating of equipment; enforce commercial locating over residential location; and requiring new installation onto existing equipment before putting up stand-alone equipment.
"The law recognizes that residents have expressed concerns about the perceived health effects of this technology and the potential unknown impact on public health," Lupinacci said. "Federal law places these issues beyond the town to regulate, so the intent is to preserve neighborhood aesthetics, ensure proper locating of equipment and to regulate such facilities within the authority afforded the town pursuant to federal law."
Lupinacci said the new law also required applicants to prove why they couldn’t use preferred locating or zoning before being allowed to proceed with any zoning change requests.
Two new applications will be subject to the new rules, according to town officials. One is for 1444 E. Jericho Tpke. and a second on a Dix Hills Water District water tower on Colby Drive.
Deputy Supervisor Ed Smyth said the new code provided the town with the maximum jurisdiction allowed by federal law over the placement of telecom facilities.
"By carving these regulations out of Section 198 into their own section of the town code we have modernized and clarified requirements for placement and aesthetics of telecom equipment," Smyth said.
Section 198 of the town code had addressed cell tower facilities.
Smyth, who in 2016 ran on a platform that included improvements to the town's cell service "dead zone," said once he was a town board member he learned how difficult fixing such a problem was, given Federal Communications Commission regulations.
Smyth voted against a measure to hire a consultant to help the town process applications for telecom facilities and to issue compliance certificates.
"I want to do all we can to improve cellular service in the town," Smyth said. "However, from what is available about them publicly, their objectivity toward the telecom industry is not clear and that is concerning."
What the new law regulates
- Proper locating of equipment
- Enforces commercial locating before residential location is considered
- Requiring installation on existing equipment before new stand-alone equipment can be installed
- Proper appearance, such as requiring equipment be painted a particular color or disguised to mask appearance