Proposed Antennas Receive Negative Signals

       Those expecting the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals to announce a decision on the Maidstone Club’s application for a new irrigation system may have been disappointed on Friday. Just the same, the meeting included no less than three hours’ worth of debate and zoning minutiae on other hot-bed topics, including the definition of a garage, which is covered separately on A1, and the installation of AT&T antennas and auxiliary equipment on a 180,000-gallon oil tank at P.C. Schenck and Sons at 60 Newtown Lane.

       The Maidstone Club had submitted a draft environmental impact statement on the irrigation system, which was the focus of debate at the board’s Jan. 10 meeting. However, on Friday, Frank Newbold, the board’s chairman, said some  legal notices of the completion of the draft statement had not been distributed to certain interested parties until Dec. 31. Because the state requires a 30-day minimum comment period, the board extended it to Jan. 30 and delayed its determination.

       Friday’s meeting was the second public forum on the AT&T antennas and six ground-level equipment cabinets. The project is intended to increase coverage for AT&T’s cellphone subscribers, but it requires setback variances.

       At a hearing last month, the board told the applicant’s attorney, John Huber, to address concerns  about noise and possible health hazards due to radio frequency emissions expressed by adjacent property owners.

       With regard to noise, Mike Patel of Tectonic Engineering of Newburgh, N.Y., said the worst-case scenario, with fans running at full capacity to cool the equipment, would produce 65 decibels at a distance of five feet from the cabinets. By comparison, a base level of ambient noise at the site, measured during lunchtime when the company’s trucks were idle, was around 44 decibels, he said. By comparison, Mr. Patel said, “When a fridge kicks in in a house, that’s around 55 to 60” decibels. “This is without any kind of baffling or any other sound attenuation put around the proposed facility.” Vegetation would further reduce any sound traveling to nearby properties, he said.

       Mr. Patel added that his analysis showed 53.8 decibels  at the property line of 19 Barns Lane, about 33 feet from the proposed cabinets. “If you go farther,” he said, “at the house line it would be around 52 decibels.”

       “The problem,” Lysbeth Marigold, a  member of the board, said, is that “the worst-case scenario is probably when the homeowner is sitting outside on his patio, which would be, let’s say, Sunday afternoon in August, so it’s very hot. The cellphone usage is intense because all our visitors are here. I don’t know about you, but I’m aware when my refrigerator kicks in.”

       Ms. Marigold also questioned placing the cabinets near the property line. “We considered the entire property and there is no other space available at the location,” Mr. Huber said flatly. “If he wants antennas and the income of that — I imagine that’s the driving force — why not find space?” Ms. Marigold asked.

       Mr. Newbold was also concerned about the location of the cabinets, saying they were “going to be hard up against the cinderblock wall, and basically the noise is going to bounce out toward the residential area.” He too asked if they could be relocated or enclosed to minimize noise. “We have conferred with Mr. Schenck directly, and the guidance I was given is that there’s no other available location on the property,” Mr. Huber repeated.

       Furthermore, he said that Mr. Patel’s analysis had concluded that sound baffling would require a 10.5-foot-tall fence. Such an installation would reduce the sound to the ambient level, Mr. Patel said. But to comply with the village code, the applicant had already agreed to reduce the height of the fence from eight to six feet.

       “We’ve had other industrial situations where they do use a six-foot sound-baffling fence and it seems to work,” Ms. Marigold said.

       “The reason for the ten-and-a-half foot fence was because we were also looking at the top floor of the neighboring house,” Mr. Patel answered. 

       Mr. Huber asked the board to remember that “this is a fuel-dispensing depot with trucks rolling in and out.” The sound associated with trucks is 90 decibels, he said, nearly double the level from the proposed cabinets.

       Mr. Newbold said that Drew Bennett, the village’s consulting engineer, had addressed other concerns raised at last month’s meeting, including the advisability of welding antennas to a fuel tank and the effect of radio frequencies emitted from the antennas. According to Mr. Bennett, the welding can be done safely if done in accordance with federal procedures, and the radio frequency levels would be less than 5 percent of the maximum exposure set by the Federal Communications Commission.

       Residents were still not convinced. “I feel like a dinosaur is coming to eat East Hampton Village,” Naomi Salz said. “I think this is a very inappropriate place to put up such a facility.” She suggested East Hampton Airport as an alternate site. “It would be very unfortunate if years from now we find out that, yes, there is some radioactive effect and it has been affecting people or the community in some way,” she said.

       Joseph Lambiase, who recently bought the property at 19 Barns Lane and had spoken against the project at the meeting in December, reiterated his opposition on Friday. “It’s already very noisy,” he said of the Schenck site. “There’s other options for them that they just don’t want to take,” he said.

       Nearby residents had bought their houses with knowledge of an existing level of noise, Mr. Newbold told Mr. Huber, but “to introduce additional noise is a burden on them.” He asked that the applicant return in two weeks with the best recommendation of “what would be the most silent way to install this.” Mr. Huber agreed, and the hearing was adjourned to Feb. 14.