After a three and a half hour public hearing on eight cell nodes applications by ExteNet Systems, the Village of Plandome Board of Trustees unanimously voted to deny the application. ExteNet now has 30 days to file a federal lawsuit against the village, which they have done previously when denied by the villages of Flower Hill and Lake Success.
“I’m surprised of the decision,” ExteNet Eastern Regional Director of Communications Richard Lambert said. “It’s unfortunate. You will find out within 30 days of what we’re going to do.”
The vote was held in two separate blocks, as proposed by Plandome Trustee Andrew Bartels: nodes 44, 47, 50, 51, 52, 56 and 57 were voted on as a package and node 53 would be voted on separately. Both votes led to a unanimous decision by the board. Two other cell node applications, nodes 42 and 46, for Plandome were adjourned to a January decision prior to the Nov. 18 public hearing.
“Very different application from Flower Hill,” Plandome’s wireless consultant, Anthony Laporte of Cityscape, said. “Where the deficiencies existed in the Flower Hill application, they did not exist here. It was a much more complete application. What I heard was from the board, particularly from trustee Ray Herbert, were the location aspects of these nodes, aesthetics and the impact of that on the property values of the residents. I think they heard what the public’s desire was in terms of having any facilities in the community.”
Node 53 was a hot topic for residents who were present at the public hearing that nearly filled all of the seats in village hall. Node 53 would be located in a sump that is owned by Nassau County near Woodege Road’s cul-de-sac. James D. Kiley lives in the cul-de-sac and had asked for the node to be moved back into the sump where it could still be accessed by an easement road, however, the board previously told ExteNet that they could not guarantee access to the easement, which is used for emergency vehicles.
“Node 53 has some issues,” ExteNet RF Engineer Chris Frederick said. “It’s in a county sump and the county won’t talk to us until we get an agreement with [Plandome]. That node could have went anywhere in the sump area. The issue was having access to it, being able to service the pole. This board originally said we cannot rely on that easement.”
Kiley, an attorney himself, and others, including Tom Nastos, voiced to the board that if the applications were accepted by the board—they would sue the village, as opposed to ExteNet suing for a denial. Kiley specifically referenced node 53’s approval.
Throughout the public hearing, residents came up to the podium to speak against the nodes referencing aesthetics, real estate property value and health concerns, although health concerns are banned by federal law in reason for denying the nodes. They also referenced the lack of need for better cellular service, the nodes would provide more capacity for a 4G network, not 5G, saying their service was just fine.
“This was a complex situation from the start,” Mayor Thomas Minutillo said in a statement to the Manhasset Press. “Early on in the process trustee Donald Richardson and I reviewed each site and I found several to be troublesome. I am proud of the due diligence of the board to explore all facets of the application process, and keep the Plandome homeowners best interest in mind. Ultimately as I stated in the meeting I feel these nodes are incompatible with the landscape of our community. Last night’s public hearing was also a factor in my decision. The people spoke loudly about locations and aesthetics, and I believe it is the board’s responsibility to listen to those concerns. My decision to deny this application was based on the work done by the board, input from the professional experts of our consulting company, and the overwhelming objection of our residents. We held a series of public hearings which were well attended by our residents. Mr. Kiley and Mr. Papain made a strong argument for node 53 that we could pursue other locations less impactful on the community. The Reilly and Yemm families noted the possibility of diminished home values based on the aesthetics of a pole placed near their homes. Lastly, as Elaine Goodwin stated, I believe we should be viewing this application as a bundle. For these reasons and others, I feel these nodes are incompatible with the landscape and aesthetics of our exceptionally beautiful and bucolic community.”
Federal law has stripped power away from local municipalities in regards to wireless applications and those municipalities that have denied such applications have almost all found themselves in federal court after being sued. The Village of Plandome says it has not retained a litigation attorney as of yet, Flower Hill hired their litigation attorney months prior to their denial decision.
“We have been working very closely with this board,” Frederick said. “One of the board members actually eluded to, that they could not actually deny us. The best course of action was to pick the best places, so it would be the least intrusive.”
ExteNet is currently being backed by Verizon to build 66 nodes in the Manhasset and Port Washington area, which includes applications to Munsey Park, Flower Hill, Plandome, Plandome Manor and the Town of North Hempstead. One node, however, has not been part of any application.
Node 41 currently does not have a home, and ExteNet is unsure of where it would possibly go. The node was originally part of the Plandome Manor application, and was to be located on Bayside Drive, but after finding out that Bayside Drive is a private road, ExteNet withdrew node 41 from the application. The next idea was to put it on the Plandome side of Bayside Drive, but the road is also private in that jurisdiction as well.
“The node is up in the air,” Lambert said. “It’s not part of any application. Right now, it has not been located, but we do have sites that we’re looking at.”
Node 41 could still go into any jurisdiction, according to Lambert, even the ones that have already denied previous applications, like Plandome and Flower Hill.