HAMPTON — Beach condo owners who say they weren’t told about the possible installation of heavy telecom equipment in a waterfront development saw their appeal denied this month by a zoning board, in a dispute involving a consumer complaint filed with the state and new legislation that loosens regulations for telecom companies.
“They feel that they were duped,” Manchester attorney John Cronin told the Hampton Zoning Board of Adjustment on July 17, speaking on behalf of condo owners Patrick and Donna Giangregorio.
The Giangregorios own a home in Sea Spray Condominiums, a waterfront development on Ocean Boulevard that opened last summer with 36 one-bedroom condos and eight commercial spaces. Green & Co., based in North Hampton, is the developer.
All of the commercial spaces are on the ground floor. Cronin told the board that when the Giangregorios put money down in 2012, they were unaware that one of the commercial spaces — owned by an entity called Portman Investments — could be leased to AT&T to house equipment such as antennas.
“There was no representation about cell towers (or) telecommunications equipment,” Cronin told the board. He alleged that the developer “knew well in advance that they were going to site telecommunications equipment in here,” but said in marketing materials that the commercial spaces would be used for typical beachfront retail such as T-shirt and food shops.
Michael Green, director of construction and marketing at Green & Co., denied that claim Monday.
“In our paperwork and filings and everything, we have disclosed this from the beginning,” Green said. “There really should not be an issue here.”
Green said the antennas that could be installed by AT&T would be “completely concealed,” not noisy and intended to “improve cellphone use at Hampton Beach for AT&T.”
“It isn’t unsightly, and we’ve had reports from engineers that there are no safety hazards,” Green said.
Cronin and Green both cited state legislation adopted earlier this year that gives telecom companies greater leeway to install equipment. Green said the legislation makes commercial use such as what’s intended at Sea Spray “approvable without a zoning change.”
Cronin asked Hampton’s zoning board to repeal a building permit that was issued administratively in May and allows AT&T to install equipment in the Sea Spray commercial unit.
The board denied the request 5-0, saying the permit was issued legally and appropriately, and adding that the dispute didn’t fall under the board’s jurisdiction.
“I didn’t feel it was valid,” board Chairman Bryan Provencal said Monday of Cronin’s request. “(Portman Investments) did everything that they were required to do to obtain a permit, from what the board was shown.”
Provencal said leasing the commercial unit to AT&T for the installation of cellular telecom equipment is within the rights of the unit’s owner, and called the dispute a civil matter.
“We don’t get into condo arguments between associations,” Provencal said.
Draft minutes from the July 17 zoning board meeting state that a member of Sea Spray’s condo association filed a complaint with the state Attorney General’s Office. Cronin wrote in an email that the complaint was filed by a different homeowner than the Giangregorios.
An employee in the Consumer Protection Bureau of the state Attorney General’s Office confirmed Monday that a complaint involving Sea Spray had been filed “recently,” but said she could give no further details.
Green said he hadn’t heard about a civil suit or further developments in the dispute.
“To my knowledge, there is no civil suit, and there is no basis for a civil suit,” Green said, adding that he hadn’t been contacted by the state attorney general’s office, either.
“Everything we’re doing is above-board,” he said. “We’ve built a very successful building on Hampton Beach, and we’ve moved forward with an approved use.”