Roslyn Estates residents push back on installation of additional cell antennas

Roslyn Estates residents push back on installation of additional cell antennas
Residents packed the meeting room as they presented their concerns to the Roslyn Estates Board of Trustees on a proposal for additional telecommunications equipment in the village. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

A group of residents is in opposition to the addition of cell phone antennas in the Village of Roslyn Estates, but the village’s Board of Trustees says there isn’t much that can be done due to strict telecommunication laws.

“I am very surprised that it seems like you aren’t trying more to help us after we have expressed our concern and our interest,” resident Michelle Bounaix told the trustees at the packed Monday night board meeting. “It would be wonderful that as our Board of Trustees that represents us that you would come and help us come up with a solution for how there could be an alternative done and that we can discuss this rather than just kind of going ‘well, you know, this is how it is.’”

Mayor Paul Peters responded by saying: “We’re going to do whatever we can to make sure that they are held to the letter of the law in every respect and if there’s any way that we can stop it legally, that’s what we’re going to do.”

He added, “But that’s all we could do.”

The Monday night hearing featured a full house, with many residents resorting to standing  as tensions rose between the residents and trustees. Several residents expressed a lack of faith in the trustees as advocates for the community on the issue and asked them to do more to prevent the installation.

Dish Wireless cellphone service is proposing to install wireless communications equipment on top of the building at 1044 Northern Blvd. This building already houses cellphone antennas for three other cellphone service providers.

Peters said the village did not request the additional cell antennas, but the federal government “insisted” on the establishment of a fourth cellphone carrier.

While the Roslyn Estates Board of Trustees held a public hearing Monday night for the cellphone service provider’s application for a permit, the hearing was immediately adjourned as requested by the applicant. Peters said this was because they had failed to provide documentation the board needed before making a decision.

Resident concerns included aesthetics and the worry that the cell phone antennas would diminish their property values as well as trepidation over radiation exposure.

With three cellphone service providers already housing equipment on top of the building on Northern Boulevard, many residents questioned if a fourth provider is necessary.

“Now that we’re all as a community aware that this is happening, we’d like to discuss it more and get more information on how necessary this is for our own community,” resident Kathy Lien said.

Lien asked whether the village could say no to the federal government.

Trustee Susan Rubinstein said the village’s attorney, Christopher Prior, advised the board that this process is more of a “formality” and that the federal government is in control. If the board denies the application, she said the village is almost certainly going to be sued by Dish and will likely lose.

“It would be extraordinarily difficult – that’s a euphemism – for the board to turn down such an application,” Prior said.

Prior said that the federal government has “eroded” local governments’ abilities to prevent the installation of telecommunications equipment over the decades.

Prior said there are reasons why a village could deny the application of additional cell antennas, but that they are very limited. This includes aesthetics.

But Prior said the village’s argument for aesthetics is not strong since telecommunications equipment already exists on the building where the new equipment is proposed.

This is in tandem with the history of Dish Wireless, which resulted from the T-Mobile-Sprint merger signed off by the federal government.

“This application is probably more favored than anyone else in the eyes of the federal government,” Prior said.

But all of this is dependent on Dish providing reports that demonstrate their applicability, which they have not done yet. Prior said he is expecting they will, but as of now they are not entitled to approval.

Bounaix said the village still can fight back on this.

“We as our own independent village and our own government, we absolutely have a right to be able to say what can and can not go up on these buildings…and as a village we should all come together for our best interests.  And it feels like that’s not what’s happening because you don’t have to see them, you don’t have to see them, you don’t have to see them,” Bounaix said as she pointed to the members of the board. “You all don’t have to see them. We all do every single day and it is an eyesore.”

Bounaix asked whether the village collects annual fees from telecommunication companies, which Peters said they do not. She then showed printed photos of documents showing the village collecting fees from the companies circa 2009.

Nobody from the village was aware of collecting fees from the present companies, which they said they would look into or whether or not those fees have been paid in recent years. On top of looking into potentially unpaid fees, the village said it would also look into how much fees they could charge.

When a resident asked the board whether they would approve the application, Rubinstein said they do not have the information yet to make a decision. Peters said the board will vote within the federal law’s bounds.

“I’m all for protecting Roslyn Estates and make Dish’s life a nightmare as much as we possibly can,” Trustee Brett Auerbach said. “We’re pushing back on every possible path.”

The Village of Roslyn Estates Board of Trustees will continue the public hearing and discussion of the additional telecommunications equipment in the village at the next meeting on Jan. 22.

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