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East Hampton Town sued over denial of cellphone antennas

AT&T attorneys said in a federal lawsuit that the nine panel antennas were needed to improve an area of unreliable coverage.

Left, the Iacono Tower, as it looks today

Left, the Iacono Tower, as it looks today and an artist's rendering of what it would look like once antennas are installed, according to documents in a lawsuit filed in Eastern District Court in Central Islip on Jan. 12, 2018. Photo Credit: Composite: U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York Central Islip

AT&T has filed a lawsuit against East Hampton Town after the municipality in December denied an application to install nine panel antennas on an existing wind turbine.

The federal lawsuit names the town, its building department, architectural review board and planning board as defendants and alleges they violated federal and state law when the planning board voted down the application on Dec. 13. Representatives from New Cingular Wireless, the AT&T subsidiary named in the lawsuit filed in Eastern District Court in Central Islip on Jan. 12, said in court papers the town did not have enough evidence to deny the application.

The panels would have been placed 95 feet high on the 120-foot-tall turbine on the 7.7-acre Iacono Farm property on Long Lane in an unincorporated part of the town. The company would also have added a service shed at the base of the tower.

The panels are needed to address a service gap that prevents AT&T users in the area from receiving reliable cellular service, including when making 911 calls, according to the lawsuit. That gap runs from west of Stephen Hands Path to east of Osborne Lane and from north of Route 27 to north of Grape Arbor Lane.

AT&T officials stated in court papers the facility would not be a major eyesore in the neighborhood.

“Given the minimal width, height and color of the flush-mounted antennas, the modifications to the Iacono Tower necessary to install the facility would have” minimal visual impact, according to the court filing.

The communications provider claims that as a public utility, under state law, it must only prove there are service gaps, that the proposed antennas would remedy those gaps and that the additions will present minimal intrusion on the community.

AT&T is seeking a reversal of the denial of the application, an order requiring the town to grant permission to build the facility, and any other damages the court “may deem equitable and just.”

Representatives from AT&T or its law firm, Princeton, New Jersey-based Drinker Biddle & Reath, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski declined to talk about the lawsuit, saying the town does not comment on pending litigation.

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