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Council makes Crown Castle scoping public affair

Amidst litigation between the city and telecom contractor Crown Castle, the City Council will prepare to conduct its Environmental Impact Statement, EIS, by holding a public scoping meeting designed to help hone in on a future review of the company’s infrastructure proposal.

The public scoping meeting, which was scheduled for July 12, will help formulate a scoping doctrine, a document that will help guide an environmental review of Crown Castle’s plan to install more than 70 additional wireless locations across the city and marks the next step in a review process under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, SEQR.

According to City Attorney Kristen Wilson, while public scoping meetings are not always held during environmental reviews under SEQR, public interest on the topic—which has been avid—has created the impetus for one.

“Because of public interest, it would only benefit the city to hear input from the public,” she said. “I would rather be criticized for having too much comment than not enough.”

Josh Cohn, the Democratic candidate running for mayor this year, called the decision to make the scoping process public a necessity.

“I think that it’s obligatory given the level of public concern there’s been over Crown Castle,” he said, mentioning that he believes the meeting should be held in September, when less Rye residents are away on vacation.

Public input on Crown Castle’s proposal—which is being extended at the behest of Verizon Wireless in an attempt to increase wireless capacity in Rye—has been unparalleled throughout the last year, prompting long public meetings and debate between councilmembers and the public.

Last month, after the City Council denied Crown Castle’s application, citing concerns over the noise and aesthetic impact on Rye’s neighborhoods, the company sued the city in federal court, marking the beginning of a legal battle between the two that will ultimately decide the fate of Crown Castle’s application.

According to Wilson, after the city moved to dismiss a complaint filed by Crown Castle, claiming that Verizon Wireless—who was not named as a party in the suit—should be added, and that the lawsuit should be moved to state courts, the company refused to amend its complaint and is now opposing the motion.

Concurrently, Crown Castle is continuing to pursue a preliminary injunction that would prevent the city from terminating a 2011 agreement between the two parties that dictates when, where, and how the company can modify its infrastructure. Wilson said that all of the papers will be submitted on both the preliminary injunction and the complaint by June 23.

While the litigation between the two parties is decided in the courts, the city will also push forward on an initiative to update their city code governing telecommunications law in hopes that the revamp will help give the City Council greater control over Crown Castle’s application and others like it in the future.

Specifically, the revamp will hone in on Chapter 196 of the city code and will focus primarily on how additional wireless infrastructure may affect neighborhood aesthetics.

Wilson said June 23 will be the earliest possible date at which a federal judge can make a decision on the next steps for litigation.

Councilman Terry McCartney, a Republican, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

 

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