Zoning Board Rejects New Antennas in Church Steeple

The Zoning Board of Appeals has rejected a proposal to allow new antennas for wireless service in an extended steeple at the Centerport United Methodist Church.

The unanimous vote came  after the issue stretched the eight-item agenda past 1 a.m. Friday and was greeted by loud applause and shouts of approval from members of the crowd.

Community opposition to the antennas centered on  adding wireless technology in the residential neighborhood and concerns that the proposal would raise the steeple out of the reach of fire equipment in an emergency.

Church representatives had accepted the 4G  AT&T wireless proposal, noting that another antenna has been in the same space since 2003, that it would not be visible to passersby and that the project will strengthen the bell cupola, which is in disrepair.  The proposal would extend the steeple to rise from 70 feet to 98 feet.

A consultant for the Town of Huntington, Center for Municipal Solutions, found the AT&T application to be deficient in several areas, including a lack of signed paperwork and a lack of specific information about some of the antenna equipment.

The organization also wrote, “The new steeple extension, as proposed, will change the appearance of the rooftop structure, increase the height, and substantially increase the visual impact to the surrounding area. We recommend that the applicant consider locating the new antennas (3 sectors – 2 per sector. Total 6) to the exterior of the existing bell tower, mounted to the brick arches, and concealed behind RF transparent panels that could duplicate the design of the current white wooden pillars. As such, the existing structure could remain intact without extending the height, while concealing the antennas from view.”

The town hired CMS in 2018, and said that CMS engineers go on site visits for each application with Town Planning and Engineering staff. CMS ensures no shortcuts are taken by the applicant, like skipping RF studies (radio frequency), or incomplete information and documentation, they also help protect existing aesthetics and they also review existing leases and contracts to see if the Town’s position can be improved.

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