By Claire Walla
Amongst the usual array of residential subdivisions and commercial change-of-use applications, last week the Southampton Town planning board saw this word: monopole.
At its regular meeting last Thursday, January 12, the planning board agenda included a site plan application submitted by a company called Elite Towers, LLC, in conjunction with cellular provider AT&T. The plan proposes putting a 120-foot high cell tower (known as a monopole because all antennae are contained inside the structure) on a piece of property near Foster Avenue in Bridgehampton.
The area in question encompasses 16,213 square feet close to the railroad tracks, just off Butter Lane. It also sits in a commercial district that’s currently home to an auto service and repair facility, an interior design studio, and a steel and welding company.
According to town documents, the land is owned by a company called Hampton Terminal, LLC, based in Patchogue. The property already has an 874-square foot building, which, according to the site plan, would be used to house equipment associated with the cell tower. Both Elite Towers and New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC (otherwise known as AT&T) did not return calls for comment.
According to Southampton Town Planner Claire Vail, any proposed monopole would have to be governed by certain setbacks. In a residential zone, a tower must not exceed any height equal to or greater than 100 percent of the distance between it and the closest residential building. (In other words, if a pole happens to be 100 feet away from the closest house, it may not exceed 100 feet.) For commercial districts, Vail added, that threshold is 300 percent.
The applicants for this particular application, she said, “don’t even seem to meet this setback.” While the closest residence is technically 551 feet away from the location of the proposed pole, there are commercial buildings well within 120 feet.
Currently, the site location is considered by the town to be an Aquifer Protection Overlay District. Vail explained that this is means it is recognized by the town of Southampton as being an area of recharge for groundwater. Basically, Vail continued, “it’s an area of avoidance.”
However, Vail continued to say that the border for the “Aquifer Protection Overlay District” is not so clearly defined. And there’s also the fact that this land has already seen some construction.
“It’s a site that’s already been disturbed,” she clarified.
Vail said the last monopole application pertaining to a site in Bridgehampton was approved back in 2002. The 120-foot pole, owned by LIPA, that now sits just off Montauk Highway would have had to abide by similar commercial and residential zone setbacks, however this piece of property already contained three poles.
“We have a provision in our code that allows you to replace a pole in kind and in place if it’s within 10 feet [of its original size],” Vail explained. Even though the proposed tower ended up being 20 feet higher than the original, Vail said the planning board gave LIPA a waiver for the project, compromising on the height in exchange for LIPA agreeing to move the tower further away from Montauk Highway.
“It was a very long process… and neighbors complained,” Vail recollected. But, she said the town was satisfied with the compromise. “It’s always a give and take with these things.”
At this point Vail said the site plan for Foster Avenue has not yet been fully vetted. Last week, the board passed a resolution to hold a pre-submission conference on the application, which is currently slated for its next meeting on Thursday, February 9.