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LITTLE CLAMOR AT HEARING ON CELL TOWERS

Orchard Park's proposed telecommunications law is triggering some questions but not a public outcry.

A public hearing on the issue Wednesday night drew brief comments from a handful of residents and an attorney representing AT&T Wireless. The hearing and Town Board meeting were intentionally kept short so that board members could attend a community memorial service remembering the terrorist-attack victims.

As a result, Supervisor Toni Cudney said the public hearing would be recessed and reopened during the board's next regular meeting on Oct. 3.

Benning Road resident Beverly Hammersmith spoke in favor of cellular towers, noting that she has had one on her farmland for about six years. "My experience has been positive," she said. "They're considerate, and they're an excellent tenant to have."

However, she recommended that officials also consider drainage issues along with site plans for such towers.

Two ham radio operators voiced concern about being lumped together with commercial facilities in the proposed legislation. But Town Attorney Leonard Berkowitz assured them that a different section of the town's ordinance provides for amateur radio antennas.

Douglas Dimitroff, an attorney representing AT&T Wireless, sought clarification on several points concerning Zoning Board of Appeals reviews and approvals of site plans, co-locating antennas and distances between towers/antennas and public roads and homes.

So far, the town's Zoning Board of Appeals has been handling cellular tower variance issues. The proposed change looks to protect the town's interest in properly siting towers.

A key component of the proposal is to maximize the use of any existing tower or buildings to reduce the number of towers and similar facilities that are needed. The draft also highlights the need to ease aesthetic blight through careful design of towers and landscaping.

The proposal emerges amid a recent flurry of cellular tower proposals circulating throughout several Erie County communities. The Village of Orchard Park is in the midst of a six-month moratorium on cellular towers enacted in July, and officials are drafting a telecommunications law.

Meanwhile, a proposal by Cricket Communications to build a new cellular tower on town land at the new compost facility on Milestrip Road appears to be dead. Cricket offered the town $420,179 over the term of a 25-year lease of the land, but town officials recently said the site is inadequate for the tower.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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