Cell phone tower on family's front lawn

February 3, 2011 2:19:03 PM PST
A Long Island couple got quite a surprise when they came home and found a cell phone tower in their front yard.

They didn't approve it, but the cell phone company says they have been trying to get permission to put it there.

For 10 years, the Demarco family has enjoyed the beauty of their Mount Sinai neighborhood, until this week.

"I saw it and said, 'Oh my gosh, what is that thing?'" said Lori DiMarco, the homeowner.

That thing is a 40-foot metal pole they say appeared at the edge of their front lawn, out of the blue last week, after several days of preparations by a work crew, who had told the homeowners they were installing a new streetlight.

"I have lights over here, I have lights over here. What do we need another one for? And he said, 'Oh we have dark spots in Brookhaven, this is what I'm told that's all I can tell you,'" said Michael DiMarco, the homeowner.

But this is no streetlight project.

The family came home the next day and found that 40-foot pole in their front yard. And then they learned this is actually going to be a cell phone tower, built with no permit from the town.

The tower is owned by a California company called "NextG Networks" which has been talking to the Town of Brookhaven for over a year.

Last February, it requested a permit to build the tower, in the public right of way on the DiMarco's land.

In August, after no response, a follow up letter warned they'd build the tower without a permit.

The company's general counsel told Eyewitness News, "Next G reasonably believed in good faith that the Town either did not require the permits or had waived the requirement. Since [the] applications had not been denied, NextG chose to construct its facilities."

"If you apply for a gun permit and the authorities don't act on it quick enough do you go out and buy a gun anyway and start using it?" said John Rouse, the Town of Brookhaven Highway Supervisor.

Rouse says the only reason he didn't act on the application, is because authorities were considering a different request from NextG, to build cell site on other land owned by the town.

The DiMarco's property, he says, has always been off limits.

"If they do not remove the pole, we will be removing it and charging them for it," Rouse said.

The town is now battling the telecommunications company as the DiMarcos wonder what'll happen next.

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