A telecom company installed unauthorized equipment in as many as 30 locations around Huntington, with some of them in use for as long as three years, and town officials say they will sue if necessary to get the equipment removed.
The Huntington Town Board voted 5-0 to authorize a civil action against Queens-based Crown Castle NG East LLC to recover financial damages and take "all appropriate legal and equitable action to remove the installations and recover damages and or seek other relief as deemed necessary."
Crown Castle officials said permits issued by the town highway department allowed the installations on utility polls. Further, they said, the equipment was in place before December, when the board passed legislation to regulate use of roadside rights-of-way, and was thus exempt from the law.
Town officials rejected the company's position, saying Crown Castle needed town board approval to install the equipment, including antennas.
"We've come up with a . . . system to regulate what they are doing, and they won't cooperate and avail themselves to it," town board member Mark Cuthbertson said. "The problem is they've put up their apparatus illegally."
Fiona McKone, a spokeswoman for Crown Castle, said in a statement that the company has provided wireless infrastructure to Huntington and town residents for five years, "and we are working closely with the town to resolve this matter expeditiously."
Cuthbertson said residents told the town last fall about the equipment, which he said "put the wheels in motion" to pass the December legislation that requires town board approval for equipment installed on utility poles along the town's rights-of-ways.
"There was nothing on the books that regulated these types of installations" before the December law, Cuthbertson said of the antennas attached to the utility poles. "The town code only regulated cell towers, and antennas on cell towers only."
Former Huntington Highway Superintendent William Naughton had issued permits for Crown Castle for the installations. But town officials maintain the company still needed approval from the town to do work because it own the land where the utility polls are located.
"The town board is still the owner of the land, and it needs its approval first" before any work could be done, Cuthbertson said.
Crown Castle said the permits issued by the highway department were sufficient. Naughton did not respond to requests for comment.
"We tried to work it out and told them that all they had to do was apply for permission to legalize the equipment and have a public hearing, but they have declined to do so," Cuthbertson said.
If approved, Supervisor Frank Petrone could then sign a license agreement allowing the company to use town land.
Crown Castle faced a similar issue in Northport Village last year. A pole at Main Street and Laurel Avenue was put in place by the company before getting final approval from the village.
The company had been granted a building permit by the village in November 2012 to do the work. But the village's attorney, Jim Matthews, said the permit should not have been issued because Crown Castle was supposed to go back to the zoning board of appeals for final approval on locations for the equipment.
An agreement last year kept that equipment in place.