LEWISTON – Residents upset over a 200-plus-foot emergency tower put up by Niagara County on Upper Mountain Road appeared before the Lewiston Town Board on Monday demanding to know whether it is legal and what can be done about it.
The emergency tower on the grounds of the Upper Mountain Road Fire Department went up earlier this month as part of a federally mandated plan for radio “narrow-banding” to improve communications between fire, police and other emergency responders in Niagara County.
Niagara County Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, held a meeting for residents last week explaining that the county project went through a lengthy planning process.
But both residents and town officials have complained that the tower circumvented both their Planning Board and tower committee, and went up with no notifications.
Paulette Glasgow, a former board member, said the town should pass a resolution to dismantle the tower and said that lattice towers are specifically prohibited in the town’s tower law.
Barry Deal, an Upper Mountain Road resident who lives within 60 feet of the tower, said his family has health concerns about electromagnetic wave frequency. He also said the tower violates the 500-foot setbacks in town law.
“If that tower came down it would be right across Upper Mountain Road,” said Deal. “What is the Town of Lewiston going to do about a tower that is illegal?”
Councilman Alfonso M. Bax said, “The problem is self-evident, but the solution not so much.” He said the way it went up “smells bad to me” and agreed that it violates their local laws.
Supervisor Dennis J. Brochey said there is a possibility there will be litigation. But Town Attorney Mark Davis said litigation is a lengthy process and hoped there would be some type of an agreement between the two municipalities.
Bax noted that in their tower law it would be clear to take it down a tower if a company put it up without permission, but the law does not address a matter between the town and the county.
“We thought we did a good job (with our tower law,) but somehow we got circumvented,” said Bax, who apologized for letting something like this slip past their Town Board.
“Everyone poured their heart and soul into that law,” Bax said.
Councilman Ronald Winkley, the former Lewiston police chief, said that he agrees with the residents but that the fire and police are getting dragged through this because of the county’s actions.
He said testing on the system, which connects several towers in the county, including the Upper Mountain Road tower, must happen before the first leaves begin to fall.
“If not, they will have to wait until next year and will go without a much-needed radio upgrade,” said Winkley.
In another matter, the board decided not to take action on petitions filed by resident Ronald Craft to abolish the Lewiston Police Department.
Assistant Town Attorney Brian Seaman said he did a lot of legal research on the matter and found that a citizen-induced petition on this matter could only be brought for a referendum if the Town Board abolished the Police Department and citizens wanted to establish a vote to bring it back.
Craft, who has more than 500 signatures, said he is not giving up and “plans to play hardball” and take his petitions directly to Niagara County.