A new cell phone tower could soon be coming to Southold Town.
According to Southold Town Attorney Martin Finnegan and planner Heather Lanza, there have been issues with spotty cell phone service, primarily in the hamlet area near Town Hall.
AT&T, Finnegan said, has expressed interest in siting a cell phone tower in Southold; the town's code, he said, has a "priority" facet requiring an applicant to locate the tower on town-owned property before other sites.
The property being considered to site the new tower is located behind Town Hall, on Traveler Street, on an 800-foot parcel.
In anticipation of AT&T submiting an application, Finnegan said the town was provided with a proposed lease, and one issue that came up was ownership of the tower, once constructed.
AT&T, he said, is not interested in ownership; traditionally, a third party owns the tower. A consultant to the town, however, has suggested that the town should consider taking ownership of the tower because once constructed, maintenance is limited and the bulk of the cost is passed on to the carriers, Finnegan said.
Councilwoman Louisa Evans asked if the town would pay to erect the tower. Lanza said AT&T will require the money back for building the tower through a rebate situation but that would only apply to the construction phase.
Lanza said all costs would be passed on to the carriers leasing the tower. She added that no lights would be necessary on the tower.
"It would virtually take care of itself as long as its built right," Lanza said.
Evans asked if a light might be necessary for safety reasons; a low-flying plane could hit the structure, she said. Lanza and Finnegan said trees nearby are taller.
The town board had questions about the proposed height of the tower.
Town code, Lanza said, said an 80-foot tower is allowed, along with an additional 10 feet. The proposal would initially call for three carriers, one below, and one up to 90 feet for a co-locator. Down the line, additional carriers could be considered, she said.
"They're all having to expand because of data demands," Lanza said. "We coud see even more towers going up than we have."
The tower, she said, would not be as tall as a controversial project in East Marion.
The proposal, she said, is a win-win, bringing in rent; as the landlord, the town "gets all the dollars," Lanza said.
"This is meeting an established need in this area," Finnegan said. "The world is very soon to be completely wireless."
The appearance of the tower, he added, is "amazing," and would resemble a telephone pole. Other towers resemble flag poles.
Finnegan asked if the town board was amenable to ownership to eliminate a middle man.
The board agreed that they were.
"We already own some cell towers," Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said. "It's not like we're not already set up to handle it."