The East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday night ordered that a building permit issued to the Springs Fire District for the construction of a cellular communications tower on district property be revoked.
The board voted 4-1 to rescind the permit after a late-night, and at times bristly, debate over whether neighbors of the fire district’s Fort Pond Boulevard headquarters could make their appeal more than six months after the building permit for the tower was issued and whether the district should have been required to take its application for the tower before town review boards first.
Don Cirillo, the lone member to vote against revoking the permit, argued that the neighbors’ appeal should have been dismissed for failing to be brought forth in a timely fashion. The fire district discussed the tower proposal at more than a dozen meetings in 2013 and 2014, Mr. Cirillo noted, citing minutes from district commissioners’ meetings, and residents had ample opportunity to become aware of it and raise their objections then or shortly after the building permit was issued in November 2014.
Board member Cate Rogers said that district agendas rarely listed anything about the tower as a topic of discussion prior to the meetings and said it was not unreasonable for residents to have been unaware of the tower proposal prior to the start of construction.
Residents said the district deliberately kept the tower considerations quiet after a similar proposal in 2006 was met with strident opposition from area residents.
The vote on the Springs tower came just minutes before 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning, following a marathon meeting that saw more than four hours of debate over a pair of appeals surrounding the renovation of a restaurant at the Breakers Motel in Montauk, which is owned by County Legislator Jay Schneiderman.
The revocation leaves the district to decide whether to pick the application back up again and proceed with the review process, most likely through an application to the town Planning Board, or whether to challenge the ZBA’s decision in court.
An attorney representing Elite Towers, the company that contracted with the fire district to erect the tower and lease antenna space, said that the district commissioners will have to decide how to proceed.
The tower, a 150-foot tall monopole, has already been erected at the northeastern corner of the fire district’s property but has not had antennas or power equipment installed yet. When operational, the contract with Elite Towers would pay the district $3,000 per month for each cellular provider that mounts antennas on the tower.
Aside from the revenue, the district commissioners have said that the tower is needed to improve cellular communications in Springs that fire and ambulance crews rely on to communicate and respond to emergency calls.