Neighbors show solidarity against cell tower

A Google map shows the proposed site for a cell phone tower in Southline. (Google Image)
A Google map shows the proposed site for a cell phone tower in Southline. (Google Image)

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – Southline neighbors who have been living on edge for months continue to hold their breath as a proposal to build a cell tower in their backyard seems to be in a holding pattern – for now.

An estimated 25 people attended the Town Board meeting Tuesday night in a show of support against the construction of a 135’ tower that is trying to be built by Up State Tower Company and Blue Wireless in the rear of the Southline Athletic Association complex just off North Seine Drive.

Woodgate Drive resident Keith Szen speaks to the Town Board in opposition to a 135' cell tower on February 14, 2017. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Woodgate Drive resident Keith Szen speaks to the Town Board in opposition to a 135′ cell tower on February 14, 2017. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

Woodgate Drive resident Keith Szen spoke for the assembled group during a special comments period at the meeting.

“The majority of houses are one-story houses and we’re talking about putting up a 135’ tower.  That’s a ten-story building in people’s back yards with respect to the tower.  Secondly, we just feel that it’s a bad idea to construct a tower on a baseball field.  This is a recreational facility filled with children that are going to be playing during all the summer months and you put this huge, potentially dangerous, attractive thing to mess around with, and it just seems like it was a very poor choice,” said Szen.

Szen and his neighbors have been mobilizing their neighborhood by going door to door and talking to people individually, holding large group meetings and distributing 1,000 flyers to people to stop the construction.

Town officials could not say much on the issue at the meeting.  Town Councilman James Rogowski said the town sent a letter to Up State on February 7th offering an alternative site at the Matecki Facility Center on Losson Road.  The Town has not received a formal response back from the company.

Rogowski said the company would have to demolish an old 100’ tower currently on the property to replace it with the 135’ tower Up State wants to build.

Deputy Town Attorney Melissa Reese addresses Keith Szen at the Town Board meeting on February 14, 2017. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Deputy Town Attorney Melissa Reese addresses Keith Szen at the Town Board meeting on February 14, 2017. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

Deputy Town Attorney Melissa Reese said, “We don’t have all the answers.  We’re still in negotiations.”

Residents are concerned about a Federal Communications Commission ruling that says governments must act on an application to build a new tower within 150 days of a company submitting an application.  A positive result of sorts for the neighbors, Rogowski said, “The clock is not running.”

That’s because the town has deemed the original application to be incomplete.  The town also has the alternative offer on the table according to Reese.

“I think collecting all the residents here and expressing their concerns that this is just a bad idea where they want to put it kind of forced their hand to revisit it and find better alternative sites,” said Szen.

Supervisor Diane Benczkowski said the board will try and communicate with the community members if the company submits a new application.

“We all have regular jobs, we go to work every day and we have to read through codes and just figure out how to approach them.  I think we’re trying to be cordial with each other and work through this process, but it has been a big learning curve here in the beginning,” added Szen.

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