The temporary communications tower, or "cell on wheels" that the East Hampton Town Board agreed last month should be placed at Maidstone Park in Springs until a permanent emergency communications tower is constructed elsewhere in the hamlet now appears headed to Gann Road, the board said on Tuesday.
As part of the upgrading of the town’s emergency communications system that started in 2017, a permanent, 185-foot tower for Springs is to be erected at Camp Blue Bay on Flaggy Hole Road, owned by the Girl Scouts of Nassau County. Negotiations with American Tower, which operates wireless and broadcast communications infrastructure and has an existing lease agreement with the Girl Scouts, commenced after an earlier plan for a permanent tower in a wooded parcel within a residential neighborhood drew protest from residents there.
Until that tower is operational, the board plans to employ a temporary 88-foot communications tower mounted on a trailer. Last month, the board agreed that Maidstone Park appeared to be the best location for the cell on wheels, commonly referred to as a COW, choosing that site over Gann Road and the Springs Library.
But a caller to last Thursday’s town board meeting prompted another look at that plan. Jacqueline Esposito, a vocal opponent of the now-abandoned plan to put the permanent tower in the wooded area bordered by Crandall Street, Lincoln Avenue, Norfolk Street, and Fort Pond Boulevard, reminded the board that Maidstone Park is part of the Three Mile Harbor Scenic Area of Statewide Significance, as designated by the New York State Department of State’s Division of Coastal Resources.
“We’ve heard from community members who are concerned about it, who also are concerned that the property was actually given to the town with the requirement that it always remain a park and cannot be used for other purposes,” Ms. Esposito said. “We feel a certain level of responsibility for this thing to be placed in the most appropriate place for our entire community in Springs.” Siting it in a park, she said, “could potentially jeopardize its use for our entire community.”
Ms. Esposito also noted that Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez had said at the board’s Dec. 21 meeting that only two of seven members of the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee who responded to an email soliciting opinion had chosen Maidstone Park, with four others pointing to Gann Road. “Before going to Maidstone, take into consideration it is a scenic area of statewide significance,” Ms. Esposito said last Thursday.
“It came up during public comment last week that Maidstone Park is looking like it’s off the table due to deed restrictions,” Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said on Tuesday. The Springs Citizens Advisory Committee supported Gann Road, she said in recommending that location instead. Her colleagues agreed.
To preclude the possibility that the COW would not be allowed at Maidstone Park, “we will avoid that altogether and go to Gann Road,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. John Jilnicki, the town attorney, said that he would prepare a resolution for a vote at the board’s meeting next Thursday.
Ms. Esposito also told the board that “the firehouse in Springs has called once again for the temporary tower to be at the firehouse.” In an Aug. 30, 2021, letter to Mr. Jilnicki, Carl Irace, lawyer for the fire district’s board of commissioners, said that the district would assume responsibility for the costs of the temporary installation, provided the town supply its equipment and materials to be installed as well as design and engineering information.
“During July and August, 2021, the fire district offered its site for a temporary COW, built to town specifications, at no cost to the town,” Mr. Irace said yesterday. “The town never provided any specifications, but the offer remains open.”
Eddie Schnell, the Police Department’s communications technician, told the board last month that the COW could be operational before next summer, but probably no sooner than March or April.