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Cell Phone Tower Legislation Up For Vote Tuesday

What do you think about a cell tower behind Town Hall?

Legislation that would pave the way for a proposed cell phone tower to be sited behind Town Hall in Southold is up for a vote at Town Hall Tuesday at a public meeting at 7:30 p.m.

Recently, the public spoke out at a hearing on the matter, discussing proposed changes to the town code that would allow for the construction of the AT&T tower.

And some, including members of the Historic Preservation Commission, felt the location wasn't well-suited for the tower.

According to James Grathwohl, chairman of the HPC , there are no state or federal laws to prevent cell towers on historic sites; the matter is left to local, "grass root" government. 

"Our concern is not about the cell tower itself, although its proposed location is on a registered town historic site," Grathwohl said. "We understand the need for clear and effective wireless communication, especially in Southold hamlet, but not at Town Hall, in the Southold National Historic District. It sets a bad precedent that laws can be changed to gain additional income without preserving the town's historic landmarks."

The small amount of income generated, Grathwohl said, would not be worth "denigrating" the site.

Instead, he suggested another town-owned site be found for the AT&T tower. 

"Had AT&T's original intent to build the cell tower on commercial property north of the railroad tracks on Horton's Lane not been changed to the historic Town Hall site, the LPC would have no concern," he said.

The HPC, he added, unanimously opposed the proposed amendment to the town code.

"The town board's intention was never to desecrate the town historic district," Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said.

The parcel is the only town-owned site that would be applicable under the code change, he added. 

Before any decision could be made, the supervisor said, the visual impacts need to be studied.

"The issue of revenue as being modest is conclusionary," Russell said. "There's not a figure there yet, to draw that conclusion."

Issues such as health concerns of the proposed tower, as raised by neighbors, could be set aside, he added, because another cell tower exists only a few feet away, across the street.

Still Grathwohl pointed out, "Landmarks preservation is good business."

Other members of the HPC expressed concerns that a change to the town code would set a precedent.

Anne Surchin reminded that next year is the 375th anniversary of Southold, one of the oldest towns in the United States. "When you have a goldmine of a historic district, there are intangibles that everyone relates to; this is our sense of place, something that we get by preserving a whole body of architectural buildings. We don't want to do things that will potentially compromise that."

"I think it's the people of the community that make it a special place and one way the town has been successful is to integrate the current needs of society with its historic value," Russell said.

The proposal for the tower first came before the board in Feb. 2013.

The amended legislation states that "wireless communication facilities on vacant, commercially-zoned parcels with landmark status and/or in a designated historic district," would be allowed "at the discretion of the planning board with a finding that potential impacts to any nearby historic landmarks or districts are mitigated." 

To read the resolution that's up for a vote on Tuesday, click here.

Frederick R Orestuk February 12, 2014 at 08:09 AM
The cell tower will certainly look better than the existing clothes pole and cable runs draping the roads, and barley maintained by Cablevision, LIPA/PSEG, and Verizon. The legislation should incorporate an amendment requiring the three common carries to bury all there facilities !!!

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