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Ahead of Crown Castle decision, no change

On the cusp of a pivotal decision on a proposal from the telecom contractor Crown Castle to install wireless equipment across the community, at least one member of the Rye City Council is readying herself to send the plan to a more stringent environmental review, risking litigation in the process.

According to Councilwoman Danielle Tagger-Epstein, a Democrat, though a previously scheduled determination by the council was again extended due to ongoing negotiations between city officials and representatives from Crown Castle, to her knowledge, not much has changed.

“As far as I know, there has been no change to Crown’s plan,” Tagger-Epstein said. “Unless there is something else presented to me, I don’t see any changes [in my vote].”

Tagger-Epstein told the Review that she would vote to send Crown Castle’s proposal—which looks to install 72 wireless locations across the city, many of which are adjacent to residences—to a full-on environmental impact statement, by issuing a positive declaration under the State Environmental Review Act, SEQR.

Just how her vote—and those of her fellow council members—would shake out, she added, was contingent on whether Crown Castle submits a revised plan at the last minute; an outcome which Tagger-Epstein said was possibile.

Even with the positive declaration, Rye City Attorney Kristen Wilson, who spoke to the Review last month, said that an outright denial of Crown Castle’s application or a positive declaration under SEQR would invite litigation.

Crown Castle is being contracted by Verizon Wireless, which looks to bolster its wireless network in the area by installing dozens of nodes—wireless signal-emitting equipment—to telephone poles and streetlights.

The City Council will also look to approve a set of revisions to its telecommunications law in an effort to wrangle more control over the application by Crown Castle and future applications of its kind.

Specifically, the law revamp will seek to help the council dictate just when and where new wireless locations can be installed.

Residents’ concerns over the proposal have centered on what effect the new equipment will have on property values.

While a residential group hired its own consultant to help alter Crown Castle’s plan—favoring the installation of eight much larger towers as opposed to dozens of smaller nodes—that plan has gained little foothold in ongoing negotiations between parties.

Councilwoman Emily Hurd, a Democrat, and Wilson could not be reached for comment as of press time.

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