The Zoning Board of Appeals removed the final hurdle Wednesday night enabling the Shelter Island Fire District, Elite Towers and Verizon to move forward with its plan for a 120-foot cell tower at the Manhanset Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane.
The proposal for the new tower first surfaced in 2014 to resounding objections from neighbors. But what eventually won the day were two major factors: compromises with neighbors to buffer noise from generators needed at the site and the case fire commissioners made for safety in being able to communicate when answering calls in the areas of Hay Beach and the Rams where blackouts often occurred.
A neighbor who had requested trees to block the view of the site sent a letter saying she was satisfied with a landscaping proposal that was submitted.
With no fanfare, ZBA Chairman Doug Matz expressed the attitude of his members saying approval is “in the best interests of the town.”
The ZBA approved a height variance necessary to structures that are to be used to buffer sound from generators and other equipment cellphone carriers would need at the site to support their antennas. They also approved a special permit allowing for a change to the site that already has a nonconforming use in the residential area.
The day before the ZBA action, the Town Board had approved a special permit needed for construction of any cell tower in town, citing the same safety concerns about the need for the new tower. Only Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams recused herself from that vote because she also functions as secretary-treasurer to the Board of Fire Commissioners.
Commissioner Andy Reeve expressed pleasure at the decisions.
“It’s been a long project, but I’m glad we’re finally there,” he said after the ZBA unanimous approval. Only one member, Phil DiOrio, was absent at that session.
Throughout the discussions of the tower, Commissioner Larry Lechmanski, who has been the point person on the new radio system that must be in place by January 2020, emphasized the importance of getting construction started soon so that it could be completed by July 1, 2019. That allows several months for testing and working out any kinks in the system to assure calls dispatched by Southold Police are reaching the Island effectively.
With the approvals now in place, the fire commissioners are assured they will have the communication system up and running smoothly in time for the federally mandated change in 2020.