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A Wireless Rescue Plan for East Hampton Town

Thu, 05/18/2023 - 12:05

Killing dead zones with ‘macrocells,’ smaller towers

CityScape Consultants

Consultants hired by East Hampton Town to identify and recommend solutions to gaps in personal wireless service throughout the town estimated a need for 10 new antennas 100 and 140 feet tall and 44 smaller antennas over the next decade.

“This is meant to be a guideline for future projects,” Eric Schantz, the town’s former assistant planning director, told the town board on Tuesday as it reviewed a wireless master plan prepared by CityScape Consultants. Private carriers and tower companies will build new infrastructure to fill coverage gaps. When finalized, he said, the master plan should be adopted and essentially become part of the comprehensive plan.

CityScape, he said, tried to minimize the number and height of the 100 and 140-foot macrocells “and keep designs as inconspicuous as possible, but in a way that will fill 100 percent of coverage gaps.” The town has also streamlined the application process for carriers and tower companies, he said. (Mr. Schantz is now the town’s housing director, but worked on wireless issues for many years in his previous post.)

 The plan will be subject to a public hearing, which could happen next month.

Susan Rabold of CityScape told the town board that there are now 51 wireless infrastructure sites, a number that includes some that have been approved but not yet built, some under construction, some under review, and three that are to be removed, two of which are to be replaced. All do not necessarily have personal wireless service antennae on them, she said: Some are used for broadcast, some for public safety. There are 32 towers — facilities built for the sole purpose of holding wireless equipment — and 19 base stations, structures built for another purpose such as rooftops, water tanks, and utility poles.

Macrocells — typically mounted on ground-based pads, roofs, and other structures — serve as the backbone of a wireless network because they provide the most robust signal, coverage, and network capacity, Ms. Rabold said. The small wireless facilities — smaller antennas that are typically 37 feet tall, often mounted on utility poles and providing propagation of less than one mile — “are usually put in where you need to densify the network.” They can accommodate one, or up to four carriers, depending on the type of pole the service provider installs, she said.

Using maps to illustrate CityScape’s recommendations, Ms. Rabold told the board that coverage gaps in Sag Harbor could be filled with two new macrocells and nine new small wireless facilities. Northern Northwest Harbor and Cedar Point, where no infrastructure now exists, would see one 140-foot macrocell and five small wireless facilities. Eastern Northwest Harbor, also currently lacking infrastructure, would see eight small wireless facilities. In Wainscott, two new 100-foot macrocells and seven small wireless facilities were recommended.

East Hampton, East Hampton North, and Amagansett would benefit from one new 100-foot tower, Ms. Rabold said, recommending no additional small wireless facilities “at this time.”

In Springs, however, the foundation has been installed for a 185-foot pole at Camp Blue Bay, which will house both emergency communications equipment and equipment from personal wireless carriers. At least one carrier has submitted an application to co-locate its equipment there, Mr. Schantz said. The Springs Fire Department has also submitted a preliminary site plan to the town planning board for a new 150-foot tower that conforms to setbacks. It is expected that a previous application for an existing, 150-foot tower built in 2015 without site plan approval will be withdrawn, he said. CityScape’s recommendation for Springs was two additional macrocells and four new small wireless facilities. 

CityScape also recommended one new macrocell and six new small wireless facilities for the Napeague Bay area, and one additional small wireless facility for the ocean shoreline along the eastern part of Napeague, where many already exist along Montauk Highway.

In Montauk, two additional small wireless facilities are recommended for the western part of the hamlet, and one 100-foot-tall macrocell and two new small wireless facilities to the east.

Ms. Rabold also recommended that the town identify more specific locations and acceptable infrastructure design for each suggested facility; communicate with utility pole owners to ascertain willingness to allow small cells on their poles; prepare lease agreements for town-owned property with preapproved terms; meet with wireless and fiber providers to present goals for improving wireless coverage; verify and map local fiber services and discuss availability for expansion, especially for wireless infrastructure, and consider fiber to underserved areas, at the town’s expense and with the goal of realizing fiber leasing revenue. “Fiber is important to provide a robust network,” she said. “Your small wireless facilities need fiber [added] to their sites in order to operate. Some of the areas where we show small wireless facilities may not come to fruition if there is no fiber in the right of way at the present moment.”

The board is expected to schedule a June 15 public hearing at its meeting today. This will allow time for the public to review the plan, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said.


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