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Hosted Exchange - Long Island Town Passes Restrictive Cell Tower Law

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September 24, 2010

Long Island Town Passes Restrictive Cell Tower Law

By Ed Silverstein
TMCnet Contributor

A Long Island, N.Y., township has imposed tough restrictions on the placement of new cell towers that are among the toughest in the United States, and one phone company says it effectively bans new tower construction, The AP reported.

The town of Hempstead is one of many municipalities nationwide they are choosing to tighten rules on where cell phone companies can place antennas.

The move come as there is increased demand for cell phone towers, with consumers requiring blanket wireless coverage for their phones and are buying laptops and tablet computers that also rely on cell towers, according to The AP.

Newsday reported that with its new ordinance regulating cell phone towers and transmitters, Hempstead may face legal challenges.

Wireless companies and their representatives say the zoning ordinance, which the town board passed unanimously Tuesday, would have the practical effect of banning new towers and transmitters, a violation of federal law, according to Newsday.

Elsewhere, enforcement of such ordinances has often been challenged in court, Newsday reported.

"If a legal challenge comes up, [the ordinance] won't survive it," Doug Dimitroff, who leads the New York State Wireless Association, a lobbying group, told Newsday. "There are a number of things that are seriously problematic under federal and state law."

The Federal Communications Commission chose not to comment on the new Hempstead law, Newsday reported.

But Richard Comi, the Albany area consultant who helped Hempstead draft the proposed ordinance, said federal law gives local governments wide latitude to regulate wireless infrastructure, Newsday reported.

Towns are required to:

·          Treat all wireless companies equally.

·         Base denials on "substantial evidence.”

·         Avoid banning new towers altogether.

·         Do not use health as a factor, as the federal studies show there is no connection between health problems and cell towers or transmitters.

"As long as they don't zone out, in my opinion, they are not in conflict with federal law," Comi told Newsday.

Charles Kovit, the town attorney who wrote the law, said he expects court challenges from wireless companies. "But I don't think they're going to win," he told Newsday.

Newsday reported that the new Hempstead measure blocks out huge swaths of the suburban landscape to wireless infrastructure by prohibiting new ones closer than 1,500 feet from homes, schools, day care centers and houses of worship.

Newsday said that the 29-page ordinance specifies that towers must have rust-preventive paint and signs warning of radio frequency radiation. It also requires cell phone tower applicants to pay the town up to $17,000 for consultants to review their paperwork, Newsday reported.

Hempstead's law is among the strictest of its kind, because of the sheer volume and depth of the regulations and the 1,500-foot ban, according to the cell phone industry.

Brian Regan, government affairs counsel for PCIA - the Wireless Infrastructure Association, a national trade group, called the proposal "extremely burdensome," Newsday reported.

Jane Builder, a spokeswoman for T-Mobile (News - Alert), told Newsday there were "major troubling aspects" of the new law, including the fees and radiation signage.

Comi said that if a wireless carrier's proposal is rejected, the last paragraph of the ordinance allows the Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals to "grant relief" to ensure compliance with federal law, Newsday reported.

Ed Silverstein is a contributing editor for TMCnet's InfoTech Spotlight. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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