SMITHTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Public safety versus an eyesore – a cell tower debate is taking over a Long Island community.

As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, 911 calls are being dropped due to dead service areas. But some ask: Does a new cell tower have to soar over the community?

In the heart of Smithtown on a commercial property along West Main Street — not far from the historic bull, the Spy Trail, and scenic Nissequogue River – a cell tower company wants to install a very tall tower 120 feet into the sky.

“Certainly we want to balance that with the environment,” Smithtown Supervisor Edward Wehrheim told McLogan. “The 911 calls are, at best, unreliable in that vicinity. So it’s a matter of public safety.”

Dropped calls are a way of life there, and some call it a dangerous coverage gap.

“They want to put up a tower to get rid of that dead zone. They have picked a certain piece of property. They need approval from the town board and zoning board to do it,” said David Flynn, of the Smithtown Planning Commission.

Some emergency 911 calls are bouncing across Long Island Sound, erroneously routed to Connecticut, McLogan reported.

“Who’s paying for it, first of all? And who’s getting paid to have it put in?” one woman wondered.

The carriers would rent space on the commercial property.

“There’s plenty of places, alternate places, they could pick to install it,” a man said.

Some have health concerns. Others worry it would be a blight on the landscape. The area is too close to Caleb Smith State Park, they say.

“It would definitely be an eyesore. I feel like it would be out of place,” one woman said.

The town could act within the month.

“At this point, we are largely through the approval process. There’s already been a handful of public hearings,” said Allyson Murray, of the Smithtown Planning Board.

Cell tower company officials say a pole shorter than 120 feet would be less effective.

Town planners are now recommending an environmental impact study before the issue goes to a vote.


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