The 135-foot cell tower originally planned for a Little League ballpark could now make its way into Stiglmeier Park. It also may take root by the library at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve. A third alternative suggested by Cheektowaga officials would place the tower behind a hot dog stand on Transit Road.
The tower would be built on North Seine Drive on a parcel of land owned by Southline Little League where several baseball diamonds are located, under the original plan. The project, proposed in October 2016 by Blue Wireless, would be built and maintained by Upstate Construction Services.
But recently a public hearing set by Cheektowaga lawmakers to discuss the project was canceled as town officials work with developers to determine an alternative site.
"We gave them suggested locations, but they need to build a tower in the area of town that needs coverage, their dead zone," said Kevin Schenk, town attorney. "By law, we cannot stop [the construction of cell towers]."
The deadline for determining a location has been extended to July 20.
The Matecki Facilities Building at Stiglmeier Park is located at 500 Losson Road. Behind the building soars a 95-foot communication tower owned by the town for police and information networking. It is located on the periphery of the park.
In order to use park land, the town must receive state approval. It's called "park land alienation," or the taking of parkland for non-park use. When parkland is taken in New York, it is generally replaced with recreational space, Parks & Trails New York said on its website, http://www.ny4p.org/advocacy/alienation/alienation-hey-eng.pdf
Such a measure – called the Home Rule Request for Parkland Alienation – was submitted in May to the New York State Assembly by Monica P. Wallace and to the State Senate by Timothy M. Kennedy. Each bill was passed on Thursday.
"The bill was basically procedural," said Kennedy. "The state generally approves home rule requests. It basically allows a town to do what it had requested. This will not determine where the tower will go, but it gives the town the option."
Attorney Matt Kerwin of Barclay Damon, who represents Upstate Tower Construction, forwarded a Buffalo News request for an interview. The company did not respond.
Preliminary discussion between the Town of Cheektowaga and tower developer Upstate calls for Upstate to install a new tower – some 40 feet taller than the existing tower – at the Stiglmeier site. The town would be allowed to piggyback its service network on the tower, said Councilman James P. Rogowski.
"We don't want a cell tower put up on every corner," said Rogowski, a techology instructor at Lockport High School. "Technogical needs increase every day because the demand increases. We're in 5G network today. I bet in the next 10 years we'll be in the 12G network."
Also under consideration as possible cell tower sites are:
- Town-owned land behind the Julia Boyer Reinstein Library at 1030 Losson Road.
- An empty 17-acre parcel of land behind Ted's Hot Dogs on Transit Road between Losson and French roads.
When plans for the cell tower at Southline Little League were aired in February at a Cheektowaga Town Board meeting, they were met by a wall of opposition. More than 220 households are located within 500 feet of the property, according to a listing obtained from the town by residents.
"The town is trying their best to find an appropriate site that's not in the middle of a residential area to put this tower up," said resident Ralph Majchrowicz of Martinque Drive. "The FCC has given the wireless providers great leeway. It wants cellular towers up so everyone has internet access. It's a very frustrating thing. I wouldn't want to be a councilman right now."
Longtime Councilman Gerald P. Kaminski owns several parcels of land on Losson Road near the site originally proposed for the cell tower. Kaminski said it is time to call for a moratorium to give lawmakers a chance to review the town code governing wireless telecommunications. Cheektowaga adopted the chapter on cellular regulation in September 2008. Kaminski pointed to the cell tower moratorium the Town of Tonawanda recently instituted. Amherst is considering one, too, he said.
"A moratorium needs to happen," said Kaminski. "You have to be a good citizen."
Meanwhile, Majchrowicz does not relish waking up next to a cell tower.
"I will open up my front door and be staring at a cell tower every day," said Majchrowicz. "It's going to be a very big monster."