AT&T is proposing a 50-foot-high Italian bell tower or “campanile” atop St. Peter’s Chapel in Springs (NY), reported The East Hampton Star, and it’s one step closer to becoming a reality. Last week, the Town Planning Board determined the project would not negatively impact the environment.
Matthew Fitzgerald, a lawyer for AT&T, said the company has a severe cell phone service gap in the area.
“This isn’t a case where there’s a dead spot in your home; this is a case where there’s a dead spot in your entire neighborhood,” he told the board.
It’s not the first time AT&T has tried to fix the service gap in Springs. In 2015, the telecom proposed a tower disguised as a steeple, but the project was denied in favor of pursuing a bell tower design. According to Fitzgerald, AT&T investigated alternate locations but determined that the church steeple is the best location. Some planning board members opposed using the church steeple for a tower since it dates back to 1881, and has a Civil War-era bell, reported The Star. However, the structure has not been designated a local, state, or national historic site, according to Fitzgerald. “We’re not talking capital-H historic,” he said.
The tower would be a benefit to the church, said Lys Marigold, a historian of St. Luke’s Church. The money the church would receive from renting its land to AT&T could be used to develop more community programs. Plus, the town code encourages the use of existing church steeples for wireless facilities, according to The Star.
The board discussed not having the expertise to determine whether the data AT&T was presenting were accurate. Chairman Samuel Kramer said, “The board needs specific guidance with respect to the technical aspects of this application and every other cell application.”