An application to install AT&T antennas and ancillary equipment on the ground and an oil tank at P.C. Schenck and Sons continues to draw skepticism from the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals.
“You’re saying there are so many things going on here, plus you have an oil tank very near the village, which doesn’t make people very happy, and now you want to put something more,” Larry Hillel, a zoning member, said at a board meeting on Friday. “Maybe there’s too much. . . . It raises the question, is this the straw that breaks the camel’s back?”
Adjacent neighbors on Barns Lane, and a representative of the commercial building at 66 Newtown Lane, have voiced opposition to the proposed installation, fearing noise generated by the equipment cabinets’ cooling fans. Concern about the antennas’ radio frequency emissions was also voiced, but the board’s consulting engineer, Drew Bennett, reported that such emissions represent a small fraction of allowable exposure.
The site of a proposed 32-by-21-foot concrete slab on which six equipment cabinets would be installed is 33 feet from the nearest adjacent property line, at 19 Barns Lane, and approximately 60 feet from the house there.
In previous testimony, John Huber, an attorney representing the applicant, and Mike Patel, a consultant for AT&T, told the board that the ambient sound level, measured when the Schenck fuel trucks were idle, was 44 decibels. A worst-case scenario, in which all of the cooling fans would be operating, would produce 65 decibels at a distance of five feet from the cabinets, 54 decibels at the property line, and 52 decibels at the house.
The board asked Mr. Huber to seek alternative sites for the ground-based equipment, as well as a proposal for minimizing the additional noise, and on his third visit to the board on Friday, Mr. Huber said that the proposed location of the cabinets was the only possible site on the property.
Mr. Patel described a sound barrier that he said would mitigate the fans’ noise and achieve the 44-decibel ambient background noise level at the house at 19 Barns Lane. “There will be no difference in noise level to anyone in the surrounding area,” he said.
Two freestanding walls, eight feet tall and running the length of the concrete pad, would be situated four feet from the cabinets, Mr. Patel said. Sound absorbers, which he said would look like quilted mattresses, would hang from these walls and on two walls of existing structures. “It will be hung on a heavy-duty, structural steel framework that’s galvanized, designed to stay outside,” he told the board. “It’s a framework like a shower curtain . . . hung from the top and framed on all sides as well.”
The idea, Mr. Patel said, “was to make sure there is no difference” between the ambient noise level at adjacent properties with or without the equipment cabinets. “You will not feel or hear any difference if the fan is running or not running,” he said.
Frank Newbold, the board’s chairman, pointed out that the applicant will also need approval from the design review board, which requires a minimum of 20 feet of landscaping between commercial and residential properties. “In your calculations, are you including what the effects of that 20 feet of additional landscaping would be?” he asked.
Mr. Patel said he was not, and that the addition of vegetation would further reduce noise levels.
The existing vegetation is bamboo. “Sometimes, it’s onerous,” Mr. Huber said, but “in this situation I think it actually helps, because it’s a maintenance-free form of vegetation.” The area is difficult to access and receives little sunlight due to the fuel tank, he said, and suggested that it be left alone.
Lysbeth Marigold, a board member, pressed Mr. Huber and Mr. Patel on the proposed location, referring to the previous installation of antennas in the steeple of the East Hampton Presbyterian Church. There, additional equipment was situated in the church’s basement. “I’m sure the Presbyterian church basement was problematic too, at one point,” she said. “They probably had to move . . . hymnals and things out of the way. You tend to fill storage spaces, but if you really want something, you can find the space.”
Mr. Newbold asked the men to provide a measured drawing and said that the board would seek independent verification of Mr. Patel’s testimony from Mr. Bennett. The hearing was adjourned to the board’s next meeting on March 14.
In other news from the meeting, the board granted variances for the property owner at 174 Further Lane to build a new house designed by the architect Annabelle Selldorf as well as accessory structures, but officially denied the applicant’s request to allow a squash court in a new detached garage, a plan the applicant had already abandoned.