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ZBA to consider cell tower variance

REPORTER FILE PHOTO The Manhanset Firehouse could be the site of a second Shelter Island cell phone tower.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO The Manhanset Firehouse could be the site of a second Shelter Island cell phone tower.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is poised to hear from John Coughlin, attorney for  Deer Park’s Elite Towers, Wednesday night as he makes the case for a new tower at the Manhanset Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane.

For the proposed 120-foot tower to be constructed, it would need a variance from the ZBA since the equipment surrounding the tower would be approximately 26 feet from the rear yard lot line instead of the required 30-foot setback.

The Town Board would also have to act on a request for a special permit, necessary for any cell towers to be built.

Commissioners were originally approached about putting up a tower in response to complaints from some cellphone users in Hay Beach and Ram’s Island where reception is spotty. That led to discussions among firefighters about difficulties they sometimes encountered when responding to emergency calls in those areas of the Island. They said if they were on the site of major fire where they needed backup assistance from other fire departments, calls for backup would not always be heard because of lack of consistent service.

Some residents in the area expressed concerns about the safety and esthetics of the proposed tower. Some questioned whether the tower couldn’t be placed elsewhere, away from residential houses. They also raised questions about whether there might be other means of improving communications without putting up a new tower.

At the request of petitioners, the Town Board agreed to hire an independent consultant to assess the application. Peter Reich, who was a councilman at the time, said a consultant had been identified and the $5,000 cost would have to be paid by Elite Towers.

Mr. Reich couldn’t be reached to determine who that consultant is.

A report from the consultant would likely be sought if the ZBA acts favorably on the lot line variance and sends the application to the Town Board to consider the special permit application.

If the tower is approved, the Fire District would receive an initial payment of $100,000, then half of the receipts Elite gets from those cellphone carriers who put antennae on the tower. In addition, the district would be able to place its own antenna on the tower at no cost.

The ZBA meeting is slated for 7:30 Wednesday night at Town Hall.

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