banner1gif.gif

Cell Boxes on Hold, City To Hire Outside Counsel

utility poleA company called Crown Castle wants to place 50 or so “shrouds” or boxes and antennas on utility, traffic, or power poles in many Rye neighborhoods on behalf of its client, Verizon Wireless. Since 2011, Crown Castle has had nine such shrouds in Rye.

 

By Tom McDermott

 

utility poleA company called Crown Castle wants to place 50 or so “shrouds” or boxes and antennas on utility, traffic, or power poles in many Rye neighborhoods on behalf of its client, Verizon Wireless. Since 2011, Crown Castle has had nine such shrouds in Rye.

 

Crown Castle claims that the shrouds will provide much better cell phone service, especially in areas where connections are weak, and allow Verizon to meet “exponentially” increasing consumer demands for data in the form of streaming information and entertainment. The telecom company, which traces its corporate roots back to AT&T has also announced plans to enter the business of streaming its own shows with advertising into customers homes.

 

Many Rye residents and some City Council members have developed grave doubts about the real need for a 500% increase in the number of shrouds in town and worry about possible health risks from electromagnetic emissions.

 

A bit of history may be in order for those who have been away.

 

Beginning at the April 13 City Council meeting, Crown Castle, which acts as a transporter for clients like Verizon, requested an amendment to a 2011 right of way use agreement between Rye and NextG, a company Crown Castle acquired, to allow the increase in boxes.

 

At that meeting, Council members Emily Hurd and Julie Killian, questioned the scale of the project. “The number is shocking,” said Hurd. According to Crown Castle there is a need to be much closer to the end users who require far more data usage today.

 

Mayor Joe Sack noted the issues that were raised, but thought sending it to the Board of Architectural Review for a look made sense. The BAR unanimously approved a plan for the installation of 73 cell boxes May 9, prior to the opening of a public hearing, which was set to begin June 8.

 

Concern about the plan continued to spread among Rye residents, despite efforts by Crown Castle to support the real need for the shrouds and to allay  health concerns regarding emissions. Residents showed up in force at the July 13 Council meeting, at which not a single resident thought it was a good idea.

 

Several speakers questioned why the City was not invoking its telecommunications law which they believed does not allow for such a project to go forward without far more scrutiny, if at all? They wondered why the City’s Corporation Counsel leaned toward thinking that the 2011 right of way use agreement was the governing statute.

 

And, perhaps most of all, residents asked, where was due process? Speaker after speaker declared that they had heard about this plan only a couple of days before, and then through the citizen grapevine, not from the City, and not from Verizon or Crown Castle either.

 

Apparently the residents’ concerns struck a nerve.

 

By their August 3 meeting, the Council was ready to vote to authorize the City Manager to engage Joseph Van Eaton of Best, Best, & Krieger, a Washington D.C. law firm who would, in turn, hire an engineer. They voted unanimously to do so, but not before Joshua Cohn, speaking on behalf of 200 residents who had signed a letter requesting citizen involvement in the process. “Please recognize our unease; we’re not sure the full Council has our backs.”

 

Also at the meeting, Tricia Agosta hammered home a number of legal points and made case law citations, with Councilman Terry McCartney, himself a litigator, taking special a interest in the cited cases. By the meeting’s end, Crown Castle’s attorney, Peter Fisher, remained unruffled and unmoved. He restated that the City’s telecommunications law had no bearing on the project and said his client, had agreed that the end of October was an acceptable timeframe to bring the matter to a close. He was eager to put the City’s proposed engineering consultant in touch with Crown Castle engineers.

 

For now, a vote on the amendment to allow the project to proceed is  on hold. Information regarding the Crown Castle plan can be found on the City’s website: ryeny.gov

 


Add comment


Security code
Refresh