Homeowners in East Hampton, NY filed a federal lawsuit against AT&T and the town of East Hampton for violation of civil rights and loss of property value.
According to the East Hampton Press, the group of 10 homeowners filed state court lawsuits in March, seeking annulment of approvals granted by the Planning Board and town Zoning Board of Appeals for the construction of a 180-foot AT&T cell tower. A request was also made for a temporary restraining order on the project. A judge last week, however, declined the plaintiffs’ requests.
Citing insufficient time to prepare a case against the construction of the tower, plaintiff attorney Andrew Campanelli said he was only given three minutes to address the Planning Board at a public hearing for the proposal.
“Under the First Amendment, individuals have the right to appear and oppose an application … and federal courts have said that if you want to fight a cellular tower you can’t just give general statements of objection, you have to produce substantial evidence,” Campanelli said. “The [Planning Board] gave [AT&T] unlimited time to present their substantial evidence in support of their application, but when I got up and wanted to rebut that evidence, they only gave me three minutes. It’s impossible to present substantial evidence in three minutes.”
Campanelli reportedly hired a real estate appraiser to value the properties of two of the plaintiffs. Appraised at approximately $750,000 each, Campanelli and the plaintiffs are seeking reparations for the imminent loss of property value.
“In an Article 78 all we can get is an annulment of the ZBA and Planning Board decision,” the attorney said on Monday. “But this is a federal civil rights action. It seeks compensation for damages and … this was willful misconduct.”
David Lys, East Hampton Town Councilman, said AT&T plans to move forward with construction and the tower “could be up within a few weeks,” reported the Press.
“There is an extreme need [for better cell service] in that area,” Lys said. “It’s a dead spot and to put emergency services in a known dead spot is bad planning. This is going to benefit all the residents of Northwest.”
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