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Smithtown considers plan for cell tower on West Main Street

Smithtown is considering a proposal for a 120-foot

Smithtown is considering a proposal for a 120-foot cellphone tower on commercial property on Main Street. Credit: Raychel Brightman

The Smithtown Town Council is considering a proposal for a 120-foot cellphone tower on commercial property at 300 W. Main St., across from the Stop & Shop supermarket.

Backers say it would reduce a dangerous coverage gap that causes some 911 calls made in the area to be erroneously routed to Connecticut. It would also cut down on dropped calls, a common nuisance in the area.

“I’m tired of living in a town where I can’t get any cell service,” said a neighbor, Diane Carroll, who spoke at a town board hearing late last month.

But some viewed the proposal skeptically, warning that the location — less than a third of a mile east of the Nissequogue River — could set a dangerous precedent for other projects in the town’s waterfront areas. One resident said the tower would be “an eyesore” visible for miles. One said in an email to town officials that the tower would cause cancer, a claim that is not substantiated by FCC safety guidelines.

Deer Park-based Elite Towers is seeking a special exception from the council to house equipment for Verizon Wireless and New Cingular Wireless at the site near where commercial buildings are now located. The proposal does not meet several zoning requirements, including one limiting structures in the area to 35 feet. Town planners have recommended an environmental study.

Company officials said in their application that a shorter pole would be less effective.

Town planners had warned early in the approvals process that the pole would “disrupt the natural aesthetic character of the waterfront.” That warning carried special weight because of the town’s waterfront revitalization program, a planning guide — written decades before the cellphone age — intended to promote beneficial uses of the vulnerable area and protect against pollution and inappropriate development.

Nevertheless, the town board last September gave an important preliminary approval when it found the proposal was consistent with program goals.

Town resident Michael Kaufman, a lawyer and Suffolk County planning commissioner, warned town council members at the hearing that approval could lead to “creeping encroachment” of similar projects on the town’s waterfront. “You don’t want to lose the values that make this town,” he said.

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