LEWSIBORO, N.Y. – A public hearing was held May 21 by the Lewisboro Town Board on the planned construction of a cell tower on Route 35 at the site of the Cyrus Russell Community House and the Lewisboro Volunteer Ambulance Corps building.
At the hearing, Supervisor Peter Parsons read several emails from community members who were in favor of the construction. In an email to the supervisor, Amy Hodges recounted how her daughter, an EMT, encountered an accident victim along 35.
“The victim was standing on the side of the road, bleeding from his head,” Hodges wrote. “She stopped and stayed with him until the medics showed up. Apparently, because there was no cell service, a passerby had to go to the 5th Division Deli to call 9-1-1.”
Grace Kulwin, who has lived in the the community for 18 years, also noted the importance of a cell tower and the benefits it can provide for emergency services.
“I am well aware of the numerous accidents on the Cross River stretch of Route 35 and I think it is extremely important for the police, fire and ambulance services,” she wrote. “Needless to say, it would also be very positive for our communities and businesses to finally have coverage.”
At the hearing, however, which was held in the library at John Jay High School, a number of people voiced concerns.
Les Simon, a Cross River resident whose house was built in 1762, said he was worried about how the placement of the tower would affect the historic home.
“I was on the Lewisboro Town Board for over 17 years,” Simon said. “During my tenure, we understood the value of the historic homes and businesses and that these were valuable assets of the town.”
Another longtime resident, Peter Blair, a former Lewisboro police officer, expressed similar concerns.
“I’m not here to state that we don’t need a tower,” he said. “My argument is, do we need a tower that size in that historic district? It’s such a historic area and, being that I’ve lived here all my life, there aren’t too many of these areas left.”
The health effects of cell tower radiation was also a topic of discussion at the board meeting.
“Grassroots is deeply concerned about the cell tower and its potential proximity to school buildings, play areas and the surrounding residential community, as well as the associated negative health impacts upon the students, faculty, staff and residents,” said Ellen Weininger, the director of educational outreach for Grassroots Environmental Education, a New York-based non-profit organization that aims to educate the public about the “links between common environmental exposures and human health.”
The owner of Homeland Towers, Manny Vicente, who is a Lewisboro resident, tried to assuage residents’ fears.
“I live here,” he said. “I wouldn’t build a tower that doesn’t work or isn’t needed. People want to know why here, why not there. This is a very difficult needle to thread and I’ll ask anyone in this room, and publicly, if anyone has property they would like to make available, please contact me. I’m easy to find. I don’t think there is any and that’s the truth. It may not be a truth that everyone likes or wants to hear, but it is the truth.”
The public hearing remains open for the next 30 days to allow for comments from the Planning Board. Additionally, a Monroe balancing test and environmental reviews will be undertaken before the project moves forward. The balancing test stems from a 1988 state court ruling that established a new method for resolving inter-governmental land-use disputes using a nine-question “balancing of public interests” analysis.