By Erica Thompson
Apr 9, 2014 11:40 AM


East Hampton Town has issued a stop-work order against PSEG Long Island at its Amagansett substation, Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell announced during an “informational” rally held by citizen activist group Save East Hampton in East Hampton on Saturday.

The group has been demanding that PSEG stop and undo a project it started in January that entails putting in 260-plus utility poles and a 33-kilovolt transmission line from East Hampton to Amagansett. It claims both are health and safety hazards.

The poles in the village range between 50 and 55 feet tall, with the exception of seven, which are roughly between 63 and 64 feet tall.

The poles in the town also range from 50 to 55 feet tall, with the exception of 22, which stand between 63 and 64 feet, according to PSEG Long Island’s Director of Communications Jeffrey Weir. He added that the actual height of the poles was actually somewhat less, because a portion of them is buried.

Mr. Cantwell said that PSEG Long Island failed to file a site plan application with the East Hampton Town Planning Board or obtain a building permit for work at the Amagansett substation on Old Stone Highway. Applying for a building permit and submitting a site plan application to the Town Planning Board would have been required, the supervisor said, adding that it is important that PSEG complies with the town code.

The issue of a site plan came out of a meeting between Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby and two representatives from PSEG on Thursday, Mr. Cantwell said.

“The meeting specifically was talking about landscaping plans for substations to hide the fence that looks so urban and doesn’t belong in a rural setting,” Ms. Overby said in a phone interview. “I was asking for a timeline. … They had responded, ‘In the spring, or this coming fall if more things were to be added to the site.’ I said, ‘You can’t keep adding to this site without going to site plan review.’”

Ms. Overby said her understanding was that site plan approval should have been in place from “day one” of the project, although it is not her jurisdiction to make sure that is completed.

“It’s our understanding that LIPA, which owns that property, is not required to obtain building permits for substation work,” countered Mr. Weir in a phone interview, noting that there was no mention of a stop-work order at the meeting on Thursday, April 3. “It’s extremely important that the project be completed on schedule to ensure the Town of East Hampton has safe consistent reliable electric this summer.”

East Hampton Town Building Inspector Tom Preiato posted the stop-work order at the Amagansett substation on late Friday afternoon, Mr. Cantwell said.

“Overall, we’re both disappointed and surprised that Supervisor Cantwell now opposes what is a much needed infrastructure project, despite the fact that the supervisor himself was directly involved with the scoping, planning and permitting process in his role as the East Hampton Village administrator,” said Mr. Weir.

Prior to serving as town supervisor, Mr. Cantwell was the village administrator for 31 years, retiring on July 31, 2013, before starting with the town on January 1 of this year.

“I recall being at one meeting,” said Mr. Cantwell in a phone interview on Tuesday. “Whatever the preliminary discussions were, they are irrelevant to the fact that I was not a village employee at the time this project was approved.”

The Long Island Power Authority first met with the village mayor’s office on May 15, 2013, when it received approval for the project, Mr. Weir said. On June 25, LIPA met with the village a second time and informed officials that some larger poles would be necessary for the project. The village subsequently asked LIPA officials to “reevaluate their options,” according to Mr. Weir.

On August 27, the utility company met with the village a third time, presenting a revised plan with only seven of 68 poles exceeding 55 feet in the village. At that time, the village said it would grant LIPA a building permit after a public hearing, which took place on September 12.

The utility company then filed for an excavation permit on September 16, 2013, which noted its plan to install 68 poles with the specifics of their location, original size and new size. Most of the original 35-foot poles are to replaced with 50-foot poles, while original 40-foot and 45-foot poles are to be replaced with 60- and 65-foot poles. The rest of the project’s roughly 200 poles are located in the town’s jurisdiction.

New York State Public Service Commissioner Audrey Zibelman is also looking to get involved with the project, according to Mr. Cantwell, who said the Public Service Department contacted East Hampton Town about a week ago. Mr. Cantwell held a meeting with Ms. Zibelman, New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. on Friday to discuss the concerns of the town and the village.

“She took those issues under consideration and expressed an interest in participating,” said Mr. Cantwell of Ms. Zibelman. “We’ll see what role the Public Service Department will play in this. We’re hoping her department will become actively engaged in this project and review it independently of PSEG and give us their input and advice.”