Outdated Code Causes Cell Tower Mess
The Town of East Hampton appears to be throwing good time and money after bad as it attempts to ram through the approval process for a proposed 185-foot-tall monopole antenna in the residential neighborhood of Northwest Woods.
The tower is the byproduct of a deal made between the town and AT&T, to settle a lawsuit. AT&T sued in federal court after the town’s planning board denied an application to allow the installation of cell signal antennas on the wind turbine tower at Iacono Farm on Long Lane in 2017. The planning board wanted the tower to go up in the former brush dump on Old Northwest Road instead.
That ill-advised denial, while conforming to the town’s code, was contrary to federal law, which states that once a telecommunication company demonstrates a dead zone in its coverage area and determines an ideal location for its antennas to close that dead zone, it cannot be prohibited by state or local government.
The 1996 law by the Federal Communications Commission foresaw the transformation of telecommunications from land-based telephones to the world of smart phones we find ourselves in today.
Unfortunately, East Hampton town, whose cell tower laws predate the 1996 act of Congress, did not, and has not, received the message.
The settlement stated that AT&T would build the tower where the town wanted, but only if all permits needed could be issued within 60 days; otherwise, they could return to Iacono Farm, with the town having no say.
Another clause in the settlement states that if litigation holds the project up for more than 90 days after the permits are issued, AT&T can deem the deal null and void and return to the Iacono site.
Several neighbors of the Northwest Woods site have retained Andrew Campanelli, an attorney whose specialties include cell tower disputes. He told The Independent last week that not only is he prepared to sue the town in both state and federal court, but may also go after planning board members themselves, charging them with being fiduciarily irresponsible. He said that the planning board’s actions will reduce in value his clients’ properties by up to a $1 million or more.
All this because the planning board was working with an outdated town code when it denied the Iacono site.