By Claire Walla
According to Lawrence Ré, an attorney for AT&T, the company has searched high and low in Bridgehampton for an existing site at which to place a new cell tower.
“We’ve been looking since 2008,” he said. “We thought the best spot would be the fire house, and repeated attempts were made to see if we could lease space on the tower there.”
“Attempts were also made to go into church steeples,” he continued. However, he said those efforts proved fruitless.
Now, AT&T is eying a 16,213-square-foot parcel off Foster Road (near the train tracks and Butter Lane) to place a new cell phone tower. The structure would be a monopole, meaning all antennae would exist in the interior of the pole, but — without an existing structure to attach itself to — the proposed 120-foot tower would sit in an open lot within the hamlet’s business district.
Ré went on to explain at a Southampton Town Planning Board meeting last Thursday, January 26 that AT&T’s service gap fades west of Butter Lane and one mile to the east of the proposed cell tower property on Foster Avenue.
Cell phone towers “really have to be [placed] every mile, to a mile-and-a-half,” he continued. “Your phone is only eight-tenths of a watt, that’s really low power.”
(AT&T is also proposing to place a 120-foot tall monopole on a 71,000-square-foot parcel on Seabreeze Avenue in Westhampton.)
While Ré explained that the tower could be reduced to a height of 90 feet, AT&T has proposed making the pole 120 feet in order to give it the capacity to take-on other wireless carriers, like Sprint, Verizon or T-Mobile. He also added that 120 feel is well within the threshold of 200 feet required for a cell tower to be built near the East Hampton Airport.
However, according to town planner Claire Vail, the proposed height does not currently meet the “fall zone” requirements mandated by town code. But, she added that the town does prefer industrial zones to residential areas for such structures. So, the Southampton Town Planning Board would be able to issue a variance for the structure, if it chose to go ahead with the project.
Board member Jacqui Lofaro asked whether AT&T had considered installing a Distributed Antennae System (DAS) instead of a monopole. (DAS is a way of transporting wireless signals through a collection of small, black boxes that are evenly distributed throughout a community. DAS also operates at a lower frequency.)
However, Ré said people tend to object to DAS. Signals only penetrate 30 or 40 feet from the DAS antenna. And while this system may work in heavily concentrated areas like Manhattan, Ré said, “If a house is set-back 100 feet from the road, it would still get marginal service.”
While Ré acknowledged that the site AT&T is now eyeing for the monopole is not ideal, he said it’s relatively far from residences.
“That’s why we ended up here, it’s an industrial area,” he continued. “We’re trying to remain away from as many houses as we can.”
Though the Hayground School is also in proximity to the site, Ré noted that it’s roughly 1,300 feet away.
“On Long Island, no matter where we pick, there’s always something 1,300 feet away!” he joked. “Again, this wasn’t our first choice, but it really seems like we’ve run into a dead end.”
In other news…
The Southampton Town Planning Board passed a resolution to commence a SEQRA report for the demolition of an existing 203-foot cell tower on a property in Noyac. The decades-old tower — currently a structure made of two large metal beams connected by two large crossbars — would be replaced by a 190-foot monopole.