Pine Island cell tower talk tabled


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  • The Pine Island Firehouse



— Pine Island Fire District Commissioners canceled Wednesday's special meeting to discuss AT&T's proposed 150-foot cell phone tower at the district's firehouse because the telecom giant has not responded to the questions and recommendations they posed in April.

"We said at the previous meeting that if we didn't hear back from AT&T, the meeting would be postponed," PIFD Commissioner Ken Gurda said. "Our negotiating team didn't hear back from AT&T."

Until the district hears from AT&T, Gurda said Wednesday, "at this point" it is uncertain when the special meeting will be rescheduled.

AT&T subsidiary New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC approached the PIFD last year with a proposal to erect a 150-foot cell phone tower in a fenced complex it will lease at the firehouse on County Route 1.

The lease agreement would generate anywhere from $24,000 to $96,000 a year in rental income for the district, which borrowed $3 million in a 30-year bond in 2008 to build its firehouse. AT&T will also subsidize or assist PIFD in enhancing its communications technologies and equipment in exchange for the site.

Some Pine Island residents - especially those who live in the immediate vicinity of the Pulaski Highway/County Route 1 crossroads - oppose the proposal, citing concerns about exposure to cell tower radio frequency waves, as well as devalued home values and the visual impact of a 150-foot pole looming above the Black Dirt hamlet.

However, during their April 23 meeting, commissioners - after a three-hour executive session - told about 25 people that federal law precludes them from denying a cell tower application because of health concerns if the proposal meets radiation standards set by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

AT&T's proposal is within those guidelines, commissioners said, therefore the board cannot deny the proposal outright because residents are leery of radiation exposure.

Warwick's Town Planning Board has agreed to allow the PIFD board to be the lead agency in assessing the proposal if commissioners meet a nine-point test crafted by the State Supreme Court in its County of Monroe v. City of Rochester ruling to determine if government entities, such as fire districts, are subject to land use laws.

- John Haughey


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