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Riverhead Town sued over proposed 120-foot cell tower

A telecommunications company has applied for a special

A telecommunications company has applied for a special permit to construct a cell tower on Fresh Pond Avenue.  Credit: Town of Riverhead Planning Department

A Houston-based telecommunications company has sued Riverhead Town over delays on approvals needed for a proposed wireless cell tower facility.

Crown Castle Towers LLC claims that Riverhead officials have created "unreasonable delays and unsupportable effective denials" in their application to install a public utility wireless telecommunications facility with a 120-foot monopole tower on a 0.99-acre parcel of land on the east side of Fresh Pond Avenue, according to a lawsuit the company filed Feb. 12 against the town in U.S. Eastern District Court.

In May 2020, Crown Castle Towers applied for a special permit with the town board and site plan approval from the planning board.

The company, which has two nearby communications facilities on Fresh Pond Avenue, states in the lawsuit that the new facility would replace the existing ones by supporting telecommunications equipment currently housed there.

However, the company claims the town has stalled construction by delaying the town board’s approval of a special permit and imposing an "unreasonable" zoning condition of requiring the company to obtain "restrictive covenants" from Simak Associates and Lizem Associates LLC — which respectively own and lease both properties housing the two existing cell facilities.

"The ZBA’s condition of approval cannot be complied with and is therefore unreasonable, illegal, arbitrary and capricious," the lawsuit states.

Representatives from both lessors have publicly opposed the new facility, saying they will lose money if the existing facilities close, the lawsuit states, adding Simak representatives threatened to build a new tower on its property "out of spite."

The covenants would prohibit a telecommunications tower from ever being rebuilt on either existing adjacent property. To date, Crown Castle Towers has not been able to reach an agreement with either property owner.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said Friday that the town’s code on wireless communications towers and antennas outlines the standards of consideration. In the end, the town code, the tower’s height, fall zone, visual impact, and public necessity "must be thoroughly reviewed," Aguiar said.

"I am confident a thorough review by planning, zoning board of appeals, planning staff, and our attorney will continue to take place," Aguiar said.

A public hearing on the special permit for the proposed facility will take place at 2:10 p.m. on March 16 at Town Hall.

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