Failure To Lead - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2254803

Failure To Lead

The Village Board of Sagaponack recently signed a 55-year lease with a cellular phone tower company. The decision was made with no noted opposition, in just one meeting. The hearing was closed, and a 50-page contract was signed.

Municipal governments are exempt from many of the demands that the individual faces when they go to improve, develop or even maintain their property. By way of example, when our farm applied to erect a deer fence on the 80-acre agricultural property immediately adjacent to the proposed tower site, we went through the extensive and lengthy process of petitioning the village for that right. It began by notifying all neighbors within 250 feet of our intentions. We also needed to prove we were a farm, and that we had exercised all possible means to control the deer before that fence was allowed.

There were surveys and multiple work sessions with the Village Board, and, in the end, the fence was only approved when we yielded a corner of our property to the needs of the proposed subdivision next door. Something about safety and line of sight.

Many celebrate the arrival of a cell tower in Sagg. This place is famous for its lack of a signal in summertime. We do not rejoice. Because, as I said, our permanently protected farmland is immediately adjacent. And a residence that we own and live in is literally just a few feet from the tower’s base.

Because the village is exempt from the rules that citizens must abide, the village did not fully or empathetically consider how this tower would impact its neighbors.

Last week, when I beseeched the village to reconsider the plans, I was told there was nothing that could be done. “It’s a done deal” were the literal words of the mayor, while the entire board sat silent.

So, here we are. The reason the village won’t reconsider is because they can’t. In the bat of an eye, they signed a contract that pretty much cedes control of the tower’s location to the federal government, and to walk that back is a terrifying prospect to a tiny village. No matter how rich Sagaponack appears to be, breaking the contract would be expensive, and maybe even impossible.

When the Village of Sagaponack was voted into existence in 2005 the residents did so because they believed a village would be a bulwark against the rapid and undesirable changes seen throughout the region.

Those of us who have lived here for generations understand you can’t stop change. But we do believe, at the very least, we can slow it down. The cell tower approval is an absolute failure of leadership and blithely accepted abuse of authority.

Marilee Foster

Suzannah Wainhouse