Skyline Facing ‘Fundamental Change’

T. E. McMorrow
A 185-foot-tall monopole cell phone antenna may rise behind the new fire station on Old Northwest Road in East Hampton.

The growing need for cell phone towers and strategically-placed antennas throughout East Hampton Town is evidenced by the planning board’s agenda for February 5. Three public hearings are scheduled for Wednesday night, one for a tower in Northwest Woods, the others for what might be termed stealth antennas, because they’re designed to blend in with their locations.

The stealth antennas are being placed on the Montauk Community Church and the Home Sweet Home storage facility in Wainscott. Both are on Montauk Highway.

The antenna proposed for the church would be placed atop the existing bell tower, hidden from passersby by a six-foot-tall screening. The Home Sweet Home antenna would be placed inside a new rooftop cupola.

The site plan reviews for antennas and cell phone towers had one planning board member reminiscing about the historic East Hampton Town skyline of years past.

“We had flagpoles and we had church steeples. Those were the tallest,” Randy Parsons said January 15, as the board discussed the Northwest Woods tower. He called it, visually, “a fundamental change” from the time when flagpoles and steeples were the only structures exempt from height limitations.

Board member Kathleen Cunningham pointed out that the section of the town code governing cell phone towers was written around 1991, several years before the U.S. Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

“These towers are governed by the Federal Communications Commission,” board member Louis Cortese said.

Eric Schantz, a senior planner for the town, said there are cell towers across the landscape now that vary in height, with most being about 150 feet tall.

At 185 feet tall, Parsons noted the proposed Northwest Woods cell tower “is going to be 135 feet above the tree line. You are going to see it from miles away.”

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