The Town of East Hampton moved ever closer to officially signing off on the proposed 185-foot-tall cell phone monopole tower at the former Northwest Woods brush even as neighbors made it clear they were vehemently opposed to its placement by their homes. A special public hearing was held before the East Hampton Town Planning Board February 5. The board has to issue a special permit for the project to move forward.
The day before that hearing, members of the town’s zoning board of appeals signed off on the variances needed for the project; necessary because the distance from the proposed tower to three neighboring properties, including one owned by the town, was less than double the height of the tower, contrary to town code.
The town appears to be in a legal dilemma. The wind turbine tower at Iacono Farm on Long Lane had been AT&T’s preferred place to put the cell phone antennas, but the planning board rejected that proposal in 2017, urging AT&T use the Northwest Woods site. The telecommunications company sued, and the two sides settled with an agreement favoring AT&T. It would build at the Northwest Woods site, but only if the town issued all needed permits within 60 days, and after that, only if there was no legal action against the town from neighbors that would hold the project up for more than 90 days.
As of now, five neighbors have retained two law firms. David Kirst, who represents one plaintiff, said that, given the elevation of the site, the pole would be the equivalent of a 22-story building, and that the application “fails to meet most, if not all” standards for issuing the needed permit.
Andrew Campanelli, representing four other surrounding homeowners, warned the board that if the tower is constructed, “you are going to reduce the value of these people’s homes by $750,000 to $1.1 million.” He said that court precedent favors his clients, and that the board was ignoring the fact that AT&T would “prefer to go to Iacono farm.”
That loss in value of his clients’ properties, Campanelli told The Independent, could be grounds for a lawsuit against planning board members personally, for fiduciary irresponsibility.
Three of the neighbors, all of whom live on Bull Path, spoke in opposition to the brush dump site. “Nobody wants to be near this,” Pam Leichter said. Two town residents spoke in support, including Tom Cooper, who lives next door to Iacono Farm.