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Shelter Island Fire Commission signs cell tower pact

COURTESY PHOTO Rendering of what Elite Towers said its proposed tower at the Manhanset Firehouse could look like.
COURTESY PHOTO | Rendering of what Elite Towers said its proposed tower at the Manhanset Firehouse could look like.

The Shelter Island Fire Commissioners have signed an agreement with Deer Park-based Elite Towers for construction of a cell tower at the Manhanset firehouse on Cobbetts Lane.

According to Fire Commission Attorney Helen Rosenblum, the Town Board will be taking up the question whether a special permit can be issued, allowing the project to go forward.

While the subject of a cell tower on Cobbetts Lane has been on the back burner for awhile, in the past several weeks there’s been action on reviewing the proposed contract and making changes before resubmitting it to Elite for a signature.

In approving the contract, the fire commissioners have said they are acting both for safety reasons and the income the cell tower would bring to the district. The fire district would receive $150,000 initially and then split annual profits that Elite receives from renting antenna space on the new tower to cellphone providers.

Once the Town Board gives the O.K., a clock begins running, allowing for 180 days during which the commissioners could back out of the contract. It could become moot if the town turns down Elite’s special permit request.

Before any permit can be issued, there would have to be a public hearing.

When the issue of a tower rising on Cobbetts Lane first surfaced in January 2014, some neighbors objected and wanted assurance the Town Board would have an objective consultant in place ready to review the plan.

The board did identify an unnamed consultant last year who would be asked to review the plan once it’s received.

Among  concerns for neighbors have been:
• Whether areas of Hay Beach and the Rams could have improved service by a means other than a new tower.
• How tall a tower would be if one is needed both for cellphone users and improved communications for emergency services — fire, police and ambulance crews.
• Dangers from radiation, although the Federal Communications Commission has barred that from being considered, maintaining there are no such dangers.
• Protection of local properties if a falls. Elite representatives insist the tower would collapse into itself and not fall over onto adjoining property.

Elite would also put fire district communications equipment on the tower with no annual charge. The only cost to the district would be the equipment itself.