Residents Battle Building of New York Cell Tower

Published May 31, 2016

Verizon Wireless recently approached the Town of Irondequoit, New York for a zoning variance to build a new cell tower–¬and was surprised by the reaction its proposal received.

“Deny this proposal,” wrote Carole Hondorf, a local resident. “This tower will have a negative effect.… This tower is insane.”

Such battles between residents and wireless companies are being increasingly waged across the nation as the explosion in consumer demand for data usage on wireless networks forces companies to build more towers to provide the increased coverage and capability.

‘Complies with Standards’

Opponents of these new structures claim cell phone towers lower property values and endanger the safety of residents through radiofrequency emissions. Citing controversial health studies, the activists are looking to block the approval of the special permit needed by Verizon Wireless to build its proposed 120-foot wireless telecommunications facility at the headquarters of the St. Paul Boulevard Fire District located at 344 Cooper Road.

Verizon Wireless submitted responses to these concerns in a series of letters and documents. The firm offered to allow sharing of the tower with local emergency responders, to upgrade emergency communications for the area, to consider alternative locations, and to adjust the design of the tower to improve its appearance. Numerous studies conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)–which regulates the construction and operation of cell-phone towers – have concluded the towers emit no harmful levels of radio- or electromagnetic frequencies.

Still, local residents aren’t convinced and have expressed strong feelings against building the cell phone tower so close to residential areas and near a local school.

Paul Dugan, a local registered professional engineer, was called in to provide an independent analysis of the proposed new facility. “The proposed antenna structure will comply with electromagnetic field safety standards,” he wrote in his analysis. “Verizon Wireless takes appropriate measures to ensure that all telecommunications facilities comply with applicable exposure limits and guidelines adopted by the FCC.”

‘A Very Precise Process’

These attempts to allay concerns about the proposed St. Paul Fire District Cell Tower have not convinced some residents. Lisa Slater submitted to the town hand-drawn sketches she said demonstrated a “negative aesthetic visual impact” of the proposed tower. Slater also argued there is “no demonstrated need for a tower in this particular location.”

John O’Malley, a Verizon Wireless spokesman, said choosing a location is a very precise process because towers use “line-of-sight” technology, which means they have to “see” each other to function properly. According to Verizon, there is currently a tower above the fire district headquarters, but it is only 84-feet tall and would have to be removed and replaced by the newer, taller tower in order to meet customers’ and the town’s needs for coverage.

According to Timothy Warth, public safety radio contractor for the St. Paul Boulevard Fire District, the proposed tower would provide increased coverage and possibly eliminate the need for building additional towers in surrounding areas.

Kyle McGrath

([email protected])

writes from Waterford, Michigan.