Around Southampton Town Hall

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The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday closed the public hearing on a plan aimed at maximizing wireless capability throughout the town, while at the same time avoiding the aesthetic blight of cumbersome, unsightly cellular structures.

Janice Scherer, a long-range planner for the town, said that AT&T, a major provider of cell phone service, wanted more time to submit comments to the board. Ms. Scherer said she wasn’t sure of the nature of AT&T’s concerns, and added that the company has had plenty of time to comment on the wireless proposal.

Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, who sponsored the proposal, said she would be comfortable in closing the hearing and providing an additional seven days for written comments. Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst agreed, but added, “we need to make it clear that this is it, they’ve had plenty of time to comment.”

Assistant Town Attorney Joe Burke said AT&T has had ample opportunities to submit questions and comments and certainly was aware of the proposed plan through several public hearings. The Town Board will likely adopt the plan at its next meeting on Tuesday, April 29.

In the works since March 2006, the Wireless Communication Master Plan was prepared by the consulting firms of Miller & Van Eaton of Washington, D.C., and the New Jersey—based Comp Comm, along with the town’s Department of Land Management.

To mitigate the environmental impact of the construction of wireless structures and facilities, the town commissioned the Hauppauge—based firm Cashin Associates to conduct an environmental study, which was completed in December 2007 after a series of work sessions and public hearings.

The motivation behind the new plan is to keep up with the rapidly growing wireless industry and to provide the town with enhanced services.

Over the last two years, Ms. Graboski has repeatedly said that better and more thorough wireless coverage was not just a matter of convenience for residents, but a matter of public safety. Linking the importance of wireless coverage to the need for conventional utilities such as a water and electric, Ms. Graboski said wireless communication has become “an essential service we have come to rely on.”

While increasing the blanket of wireless coverage, planners and board members have been insistent that cell towers and antennas not mar the rural character and historic landscape of the town. A key element of the plan favors the installation of a greater number of smaller, more easily concealed structures over a lesser number of larger, more noticeable ones.

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