The town of Huntington is changing its code in order to crack down on cell phone towers, the board concluded at its meeting yesterday.
In the current code, which has not been updated since 1998, cell phone companies like AT&T need to come to the Huntington town board before building any towers. The board then approves or disapproves that request and outlines any necessary restrictions.
This code, the board decided yesterday, must be altered to reflect new technology; these days, cell phone companies don’t rely entirely on towers anymore.
“What’s happening now is that instead of companies coming in and erecting cell towers, they’re putting up units along the poles to cover the gaps in service instead of putting a cell tower up, but they’re used like cell towers,” said Deputy Supervisor Patricia Delcol.
When installing a full tower, telephone companies are required to come before the town to receive a permit and site plan. But since cell boxes are not reflected in the code, virtually no restrictions are placed on them.
Now, the revised town code will apply the same restrictions to boxes as it does to towers.
“We’ve gotten a lot of calls from homeowners who walk out and see this thing hanging on their pole saying, ‘Hey, what’s up with this.’ Just because it’s on a telephone pole doesn’t mean it shouldn’t need to have a permit,” said Town Attorney Cindy Elan-Mangano.
The updated code will apply to any future installations cell phone companies want to make, as well as to current the current boxes that many residents have been complaining about. The companies must legalize existing structures by applying for a permit. Otherwise, according to DelCol, the town will take action.
This code modification is part of a larger plan the board has been pushing to ensure any technology is regulated when it’s in the town’s right of way.
“As the cell towers are increasing, we’re trying to be more and more restrictive, and doing it correctly so that we get the right fees for the residents and have control over it,” said supervisor Frank Patrone.
These restrictions placed upon full towers include height, location, and the type of equipment that can be put up.
The board made clear that it is trying its best to keep cell towers from being intrusive on its residents. Don McKay, director of parks for the town of Huntington, explained that there are not currently any plans to put towers up in public parks.
“They’ve tried in the past, but I think the town board’s position is that people go to parks to escape that sort of thing,” said McKay. “But if it’s in a park that’s developed like say the ice rink where it’s not going to be noticed, then that would be fine.”
McKay pointed to a recent example where AT&T wanted to put a tower on Long Island’s highest point, James Hill in West Hills County Park, but this request was denied because it was considered too intrusive.