No Cell Tower Behind Town Hall; Board's Vote is Unanimous

The public spoke out resoundingly against the cell tower Tuesday night.

After an outpouring of public opposition to a proposed cell phone tower that would be sited behind Southold Town Hall, the board voted unanimously Tuesday night to red light the legislation that would open the door for the project.

After the unanimous vote, the crowd in Town Hall applauded loudly and thanked the board for listening to their concerns.

"When we had this public discussion last February, we never would have gone this far if we had known there would be this much opposition — we meant no ill will," Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said. "We thought it was pragmatic to generate revenue and allow for generator backup in town. We didn’t try to force this along and we didn't move forward until we heard from the Historic Preservation Commission."

Members of the HPC spoke out against the tower being sited in the town's historic district both Tuesday night and at an earlier meeting.

Russell, who helped to create the town's historic district, said moving forward, the community needed to show some "flexibility," to allow for cell towers in the community. "If we're going to sterilize areas, we won't get community buy-in," for other historic districts.

Future cell phone tower sites will be evaluated on a site by site basis, Russell said.

While the land on Traveler Street "might not be the most sound place for a cell tower," the supervisor said local fire departments are interested in allowing for a cell tower, because they need the enhanced communication, and in those areas, "to build makes fiscal sense," Russell said.

Councilman Bob Ghosio thanked the community for "everyone that got involved in the conversation. I think it's an indication of how the process works. It definitely had an effect on how I voted."

Russell agreed that public opinion had an affect on his vote.

Before the vote, numerous residents stood at the podium to voice their opposition to the cell tower.

John Barnes, who lives on Horton Lane, near the site where the tower was proposed to be sited, said he while he felt there was a need for enhanced cell service in town, "Both my wife and I are very concerned about the history and the feeling of history that we have in Southold. We cherish it. We bought a historical home in the Town of Southold — anybody who likes old has got to like South-old," he said.

He asked to see photos that would prove the tower would not be "repugnant or affect the value of our homes."

Adrienne Lynch, who lives on Youngs Avenue, spoke about health concerns the tower could pose, and the "possible impacts on small growing bodies not too far down the road" at Southold schools. She asked that an expert be brought in to discuss health risks.

Councilman James Dinizio said the town relied on experts, who had testified during previous hearings in town. 

"I know there is a revenue aspect to this. You have recourse, to decide if the tower should go there or not. We have no recourse. We can't move our kids. The building is there. It is what it is," Lynch said.

Dan Durett, vice president of the North Fork Environmental Council, said the group stood unanimously against the tower; after the vote that effectively put the brakes on the plan, he thanked the board for listening.


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