A packed public hearing about 10 new cell nodes for the Village of Plandome Monday night turned into a nearly four-hour affair in which residents objected to any need for enhanced service, what the utility poles would mean for their home values and the village board’s handling of the issue.
The cell nodes are based on a Verizon assessment that determined the village is getting subpar 4G service, and they would be primarily intended to improve roadway service, said Richard Lambert Jr., the regional manager for external relations at ExteNet, a telecommunications company that Verizon hired to complete the project.
ExteNet has also approached nearby villages including Munsey Park, Flower Hill and Kings Point, and some of the villages have already approved the projects. In Plandome, two of the nodes would be on new poles, three would be on existing poles and five would be on poles replacing existing ones. The village is currently working on a June 22 special use permit approval deadline, but that could probably be extended, said village Attorney John Ritter.
Federal Communications Commission regulations do not allow municipalities to block the placement of cell nodes, Ritter said; they may only negotiate on the aesthetics and location.
Though Ritter opened the meeting with that information, it did not stop residents from questioning the validity of the project for the next several hours, often interrupting Lambert’s presentation and applauding after fellow residents stood and spoke.
Many of the speakers own homes that neighbor one of the 10 poles.
The village has fewer than 1,500 residents. There is minimal nonresidential traffic and therefore no need for improved roadway cell connectivity, some said.
It would be better to just have one or two macro sites, perhaps at the train station or fire station, than to have so many small ones throughout the village, others added. That would provide a wide range of service without adding poles throughout the village.
“I would be very surprised if Verizon hadn’t approached someone in the railroad or Plandome at some point in the past about a macro,” said ExteNet senior radio frequency design engineer Christopher Frederick. “Macros are far less expensive for the carriers than the small cell network.”
The village should have hired a consultant so it could have an expert representing the residents’ interests, said resident Elaine Goodwin.
“These are multimillion-dollar houses, these are significant financial impacts on us individually, and you’re saying you don’t have the money in the budget to hire a lawyer or design consultant to make the best decisions for us?” she said. “I think that’s disappointing.”
The village board has discussed the possibility of hiring a new consultant for the project in the last two weeks, said Deputy Mayor Ray Herbert.
ExteNet is happy to speak with residents and village officials who have ideas for different placements of specific poles, Lambert said. The village intends to do so for a few cases, village Clerk Barbara Peebles said the day after the hearing.
The meeting, which opened at 8 p.m., ended at nearly midnight. It will continue June 10.