The Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) has rejected T-Mobile's controversial proposal for a cell tower that the wireless giant had hoped to erect on the roof of the , a project that had drawn vocal opposition amongst many local residents.
The Hempstead BZA issued its decision last week to deny T-Mobile's proposal that would have involved installing six concealed wireless communication antennas and equipment cabinets on the roof of the synagogue located on 3710 Woodbine Ave., Wantagh. The denial of T-Mobile's cell tower application comes after the wireless carrier was met with staunch community opposition by Wantagh residents at a Oct. 6 BZA hearing held at Hempstead Town Hall due to concerns over the project decreasing property values in the area as well as posing potential health risks.
Two weeks prior to the Oct. 6 hearing the Hempstead Town Board approved aimed at banning new cell towers or antennas within 1,500 feet of homes, schools, daycare centers or houses of worship and also tapped national wireless communications expert Richard Comi, to review wireless applications. The new Hempstead ordinance, which did not apply to T-Mobile's Wantagh application, also forces telecommunication companies to "meet the highest standard of proof in establishing the need for cell towers."
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said the BZA's decision to reject T-Mobile's proposal was made in part by the wireless company's failure to prove the need for improved cell phone service in the area as well as the potential the project could have on local property values. Murray said she is hoping this ruling along with the town's new strict ordinance for cell tower projects will make wireless carriers rethink proposals in the Town of Hempstead around residential areas such as the Farmingdale Wantagh Jewish Center.
"This is really a wonderful victory for the residents of Wantagh," said Murray. "We now have a level playing field when it comes to cell tower applications."
After the BZA reached its decision Hempstead Town Councilwoman Angie Cullin, R-Freeport, sent a letter to her district, which includes Wantagh, praising the ruling. "While the Board of Appeals is a completely autonomous body of government, independent from the Town Board on which we serve, we are pleased with the decision," said Cullin in her letter. "In reaching its decision the board considered the impact of the proposed antennas on local home values and neighborhood character."
Hempstead's rejection of T-Mobile's application was welcome news to many Wantagh residents that live within the vicinity of the Farmingdale Wantagh Jewish Center including Felicia Onufrey, whose house is in the vicinity of the temple.
"This is a residential area and it should stay that way," said Onufrey. "A temple is a place of worship, not commerce. Hopefully the people at the temple now realize this and will not help T-Mobile appeal this decision."
In response to Hempstead's rejection of the wireless application T-Mobile spokeswoman Jane Builder issued a statement that reads in part, "We're disappointed by the decision to deny our request to improve wireless service in Wantagh because today's families want the ability to stay connected with their families in and around their neighborhood, to receive a clear signal throughout their daily commute, and to have the peace of mind that comes with high-quality, reliable wireless service when calling 911 in an emergency."
Officials for Farmingdale Wantagh Jewish Center did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment. The temple formed in 2007 from a merger with the Wantagh Jewish Center and Farmingdale Jewish Center. In 2008 the Israel Community Center in Levittown also merged with the Farmingdale Wantagh Jewish Center.
T-Mobile did not reveal whether it planned to appeal the ruling.