A cellular company has proposed installing cell phone antennas cloaked in a new steeple atop the 19th century St. Peter’s Chapel in Springs.
The new cellularized steeple would reach 50 feet, about 20 feet higher than the existing belfry atop the small church. Town planning department staff told the Planning Board that they would need to determine whether the new steeple would be visually harmonious with the residential neighborhood and recommended to the board that they require a historic impact analysis to be conducted, as the church was spotlighted in a recent town historic resources study.
In addition to Planning Board approval, the proposed steeple would need five variances from the Town Zoning Board of Appeals, for relief from codes dictating height, setback and fall-zone limitations on such structures, as well as wetlands considerations.
The company proposing the new antennas, Cingular Wireless, would pay St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which owns St. Peter’s Chapel, about $36,000 a year for the use of the Old Stone Highway church—money that the church’s leadership said would allow the church to make badly needed repairs to the chapel building.
“It would help us improve the structure, which has fallen apart a little bit inside,” Reverend Denis Brunelle told the East Hampton Town Planning Board on Wednesday night, during the first review of the proposal.
“It’s a crazy tower, we know,” Rev. Brunelle added of the artists renderings of the new steeple. “It can be designed a different way.”
Board members agreed that the design of the steeple seemed incongruous with the church, and suggested some ways to redesign it that might make it suit the existing building better.
St. Peter’s Chapel was built in 1881 to serve the small collection of fishing families—Kings, Bennetts and Millers—that inhabited the area. St. Luke’s bought the chapel in 1903.
An attorney representing Cingular Wireless argued that an additional historical analysis should not be needed.
“This works from just about every perspective,” the attorney, John Huber, said. “I know what’s going on at the Springs Fire Department … this is not that. This is good. This makes sense. We really don’t need to overdo this thing. It speaks for itself.”
Mr. Huber’s firm, Nielsen Huber Coughlin, is also representing the cell tower company Elite Towers, which has erected a 150-foot monopole on the Springs Fire Department headquarters, that has drawn the ire of neighbors.